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Henrtcus Keane, S.J., 

Praep. Prov. Angliae. 

Londini, die ii Februami, 1939. 


•J. Franciscus, 

Episcopus Menevensis. 

13 Feb., 1929. 

" There is no doctrine, however good in itself, that may not 
be made bad use of by one who does not know how to apply 
it properly." 

No hay doctrina por buena que sea de que no pueda uno 
usar mal si no la sabe aplicar como conviene. 

tr. viii.,CH. 30. 


Alphonsus Rodriguez (not to be confounded with his 
canonised namesake, a Jesuit laybrother) was burn at 
Valladolid in 1526, entered the Society of Jesus in 1546, 
and died 20 February, 1616. But for one visit to Rome, 
where he sat in the Fifth General Congregation of the 
Society, he jspent his whole life in Spain, teaching Moral 
Theology, gov erning a College as Rector x _jacting_ afe 
.Master of Novices and Spiritual Father and composing 
this work. It came out in three parts, all which appeared , 
together in 1609. Of its composition he tells us r)imself : *" 
"It being the custom in our Society for an Exhortation /(oO ( j 
to be addressed to the Community at least every fort- / 
night, and I having been engaged in that office for more <T ^ 
than forty years, addressing as well the novices as their ^^f^'^, 
Seniors in Religion, I have gathered together much 
matter which my Superiors thought it would be for the 
service of God for me to revise and put in order." 

The first complete English translation came out in 
1699. The anonymous translator has recently been 
identified as Sir John Warner, S.J., Bart. Father 
Warner, most unhappily, overlooking the original 
Spanish, translated the French version of Regnier des 
Marais. Des Marais took considerable liberties with the 
text in putting the somewhat rugged Spanish into an 
elegant Louis Quatorze garb. His loose renderings, and 
more besides, passed into the English translation. Cor- 
rections were made in the Kilkenny edition of 1809 ; but 
never to this day has the baleful influence of Des Marais 
been wholly eliminated. It has cost the present translator 
a world of toil and trouble. In my veneration for the quaint 
old seventeenth century version, still read amongst us, I 



endeavoured to base my work upon that, instead of doing 
what I was ultimately forced to do, translating straight 
from the Spanish. The translation has been revised 
throughout by a native Spaniard, who is also a competent 
English scholar. To him I return my hearty thanks. 1 
have borne in mind, and beg my reader to bear in mind, 
that I am a Translator only, and not an Editor. 

It has been Rodriguez's good fortune in our day, laudari 
a laudato viro. Writing to the Heads of Religious Orders 
on the training of their young religious, His Holiness 
r Pius XI. says, 19 March, 1924 : "Most useful to read 
through and study will be the writings of St. Bernard, 
and of the Seraphic Doctor St. Bonaventure, as also of 
I Alphonsus Rodriguez. So far from the virtue and efficacy 
I of these works having failed and become exhausted by 
lapse of time, it seems to have grown and increased" 
(Acta Ap. Sedis, vol. 16, p. 142). The temptation has 
been great to correct or explain here and there some of 
the forced or even untenable applications of Holy Scrip-?? 
ture, and some of the stories which arc historically in- J? 
accurate. On reflection however we prefer to leave them 
as they are; they profess to be but illustrations of the 
lessons he desires to teach. Some day we' may see an 
historico-critical edition of this classic work; for the 
Ejercicio de Perfeccion y Virtudes Cristianas is a classic ; 
and we present it as Rodriguez wrote it, our one object 
being to produce an English translation as accurate as 

It is presumed that no one will read Treatise xxiii. on 
Manifestation of Conscience, in ignorance of the new 
Canon Law, Canon 530. 

In references to the Psalms, since they are generally 
so short, only the number of the Psalm, as found in the 
Vulgate, has been given. 

Joseph Rickaby, S.J. 

Easter, 1929. 



The celebrated father, Alphons us Rodriguez, to whom all 
devout Christians, as well as the members of the different 
religious orders of the Church, are so deeply indebted for 
the rich treasures which he has bequeathed to them in his 
ascetic writings, was b orn at Valladolid, in Spain . He 
commenced his studies at Salamanca ; and there, after 
having attained his degree in the School of Philosophy, 
he was moved by the apostolic preaching of Father John 
Ramirez, of the Society of Jesus, and, at the age of ni ne- 
teen, embraced the r eligiou s state in t hat Society. During 
his noviceship, and in the course of his theological studies, 
he acquired so high a rep utation for virtue, that scarcely 
was he ordained priest, when he was intrusted with the 
care of the young religious to train them up in the spirit 
of their vocation, — an employment which is considered of 
the utmost importance in the Society. Amongst those who 
had the happiness of being under him as master of novices, 
was the celebrated Father Francis Suarez, who used fre- 
quently to congratulate himself on having been the dis- 
ciple of one so renowned in spiritual life. He was next 
appointed Rector of Monterei, where he afterwards re- 
mained; and, during the space of twelve years, delivered -&t^so 
lectures i n Moral T heology with such celebrity that many ifrJ^&J^ 
were anxious to obtain copies of his writings. To the t ^ >t ./ t t. ( _^ a j 
important duties of the theological chair, his zeal associated -j^^j-" 
still greater labours in his endeavours to promote the ^ ,..°* 
spiritual welfare of the city in which he dwelt, and of the 

neighbouring country, by preaching, catechising, and '' i^U^ 

absolving sinners. From Monterei he was removed to 
Valladolid, to fill the office of domestic casuist in the house 
of the professed fathers ; thence he was summoned to 
Montilla to .instruct the novices , and continued to perform 
this duty for more than thirty years. He was afterwards 
deputed to Rome to attend the Fifth General Congrega- 



tion, where he gave illustrious proofs of his sanctity, 
prudence, and knowledge of the rules and constitutions 
of the Society. From Rome he returned to Spain, and 
became Spiritual Father in the College of Cordova. It 
was during his sojourn here, that, having principally in 
view to promot e the advancement in soli d virtue of the 
entire bod y of the Society, he wrote those admirable 
Treatises on Christian Perfection, to which the Holy 
Ghost has imparted such unction, that, read again and 
again, they never tire. Having gone to Seville, in the 
year 1606, to assist at a provincial congregation, he was 
ordered by his superiors to remain there, and was placed 
once more over the novices. He continued at Seville till 
his death, devoting his leisure moments to the revisal of 
his writings previous to their publication. Unceasing 
labour had by this time greatly impaired his strength ; and, 
during the last two years of his life, he became so 
decrepid, that he was no longer able to support himself 
on his limbs to celebrate the holy sacrifice of the mass ; 
but the saintly old man received daily from the hands of 
another the adorable Sacrament of the Eucharist. At last, 
loaded with years and merits, he slept in the Lord, at the 
advanced age of ninety, in the 70th year of his religiou s 
life, an d 46 years after his sole mn pro fession. He expired* 
on the 2 1 s t of F ebruary, 1616. 

He was a man who never failed to illustrate in his own 
person, and by his own example, those lessons of virtue 
and sublime perfection which he inculcated in his works. 
His union with God was most intimate : he found a heave n 
jn his cell, a nd seldom left it unless at the call of charity 
or obedienc e. During the last years of his life, being 
released from those obstacles which are inseparable from 
offices of authority over others, he used to devote four 
hours each day to prayer. He took no pleasure in walk- 
ing about the garden attached to the college; his delight 
was to remain alone with God. He was the first at every 
public duty, most punctual in the least little observances 
of religious life, and a strenuous assertor of evangelical 
poverty. Even in the last stage of his long life, he would 
admit of no singularity in his diet ; and when he happened 



to be helped to something likely to gratify his palate, he 
would contrive to spoil its flavour with water. To the 
very last, he never omitted to crawl to the church to hear 
the confessions of the people, and, in his turn, threw him- 
self daily at the feet of his own confessor to obtain absolu- 
tion himself. It was a most edifying sight to behold this 
venerable man, at the age of ninety, with the most pro- 
found sentiments of humility, stooping to kiss the feet 
of his religious brethren, as though he was the last and 
lowest amongst them, and only fit to be trampled under 
foot by all around him. 


ST. Gregory, being desirous to write some spiritual in- . /? / / 
structions for the conduct of certain religious houses, Mn/MHtM' 
excuses himself in his Sixth Book and Twenty-seventh CjW 
Epistle in these terms: "The exercises of mortification °' 
and prayer practised by religious produce such a source -ft) J^lt^CffUA. 
or fountain of wisdom in their hearts that they stand not 
in need of being watered with those few drops our aridity 
is able to impart to them. For, as the fountain in the 
midst of the terrestrial Paradise watered all parts thereof 
and kept it continually fresh and green without the help 
of rain, which it needed not, so those who are in the para- 
dise of religion have no need of being watered from with- 
out, because prayer and mortification produce in them 
such a source or fountain of grace as is always sufficient 
to maintain their virtues in their full splendour and 
beauty. " 

I might, Reverend Fathers, upon this account, with far 
more reason than St. Gregory, excuse myself after the 
same manner he did to those faithful souls our Lord has 
planted in the garden of the Society of Jesus— souls He 
has cultivated and watered by the help of that mental 
prayer they daily make. But though this excuse would 
doubtless be a very just one if I imagined you expected 
anything new from me, yet I am prevented from making 
it, as I propose to myself nothing else in this work than 
to revive in your memories what you already know and 
" d~aily practise? In doing this, I shall pay obedience to 
"our holy tounder, who in one of his constitutions ordains 
that "once a week, or at least once a fortnight, there 
shall be one appointed to lay before our eyes the obliga- 
tions of a : spiritual life, lest human frailty, which daily 
inclines us to relax in our duties, might cause us to forget, 
and to discontinue them." This constitution, God be 
praised, is exactly observed throughout the whole Society, 
and produces great fruit therein. Having, therefore, 
above these forty years been employed in the function 
of exhorting the novices or other religious, and having 
gathered divers things together for this purpose, my 



superiors and many other persons to whom I owe a defer- 
ence were of opinion that I might render great service 
to God and to religion, and that the advantage drawn 
from my labours would be more lasting, if I should take 
care to review and put in order what I had already com- 

I considered, also, that in the constitution before cited, 
St. Ignatius puts this alternative: "Let there be," says 
he, "one appointed to deliver these spiritual exhortations 
to the religious, or at least let the religious be obliged 
to read them." I was still more encouraged in my under- 
taking when I reflected that it is a practice established 
in the Society and very much recommended by saints, to 
read something every day that may promote our spiritua l 
advancement . This being the principal design of t he 
follow ing work, I have for this reason laid before you, as 
clearly and briefly as I was able, such things as are more 
essential and more common to our profession. These, I 
f trust, will serve as a mirror wherein, if we daily view 
\ ourselves, we shall be enabled to correct our imperfections 
~i and decorate our souls in such manner as will render them 
I most pleasing to the eyes of His Divine Majesty. 

Moreover, though my principal intention was to fulfil 
the particular obligation I have to serve those whom 
religion has constituted my fathers and brethren in Jesus 
Christ ; yet because we ought to extend as far as we can 
the effects of charity, and being particularly obliged to 
it by our institute, I have endeavoured to dispose ^his 
work after such a manner as that it may be usefu l not 
only to our Society in particular, but to all other religious,, 
and even to all persons in general who aspire to Christian 
perfection. Wherefore, that the title may correspond to 
the work, I have entitled it PRACTICE OF PERFEC- 
because things are treated in it after such a manner as 
may render the practice very easy. 

I hope by the mercy of our Lord that my labours will 
not be unprofitable ; and that this grain of seed of the 
word of God, being sown in the good soil of souls aspiring 
to perfection, will render not only thirty or sixty, but 
even a hundred fold. 



Of the esteem, desire and affection we should have for what touches 
our spiritual progress, and of some means to aid us thereto 


Chap. I. The great value we ought to set on Spiritual Things . i 

II. Of the affection and desire that we should have for 

virtue and perfection . . . . . . . . 8 

III. That an excellent means and a very great preparation 

to receive favours from the Lord is to keep up a 
great desire of spiritual improvement .... 13 

IV. That the more a man gives himself to spiritual things, 

the more hunger and desire he has of them . .17 
V. That a desire of growing and going forward in self- 
improvement is a great sign of one's being in the 

grace of God 21 

VI. Showing how not to advance is to go back . 23 
VII. That it is a great aid to the attainment of perfection 
to forget any good done in the past, and fix our 
eye on what remains still to be done . . . .28 

VIII. That it is a great aid to perfection to fix our eyes on 

lofty and exalted things . . . . . . . 34 

IX. How important it is to set store by little things and 

not despise them 40 

X. Another weighty reason for setting great store by 

little things . . 44 

XI. That the business of our spiritual advancement is not 

to be taken in general, but in particular; and of 
how great importance it is to put into execution 
those good purposes wherewith God inspires us . . 49 

XII. That it will be a great aid to the attainment of per- 

fection not to commit faults on purpose, and never 
relax in fervour . • - S3 

XIII. Of three other means that will enable us to advance 

in virtue 55 

XIV. That it will help us much always to behave as we did 

the first day we entered Religion . . . . .59 

XV. That it will be a great help for everyone to ask him- 
self frequently, 'What did you enter Religion for?' . 63 
XVI. Of some other things that will help us to go on in self- 

improvement and gain perfection 68 




Chap. page 

XVII. Of the perseverance we ought to have in virtue, and 

what will aid us thereto 73 

XVIII. Of another means to advance in virtue, namely, spiri- 
tual exhortations and conferences, and how to profit 
by them 76 


Of the perfection of ordinary actions 

Chap. I. That our advancement and perfection consists in doing 

ordinary actions extraordinarily well .... 83 

II. That it ought greatly to animate us to perfection, that 

God has put it in something that is very easy . . 86 

III. In what the goodness and perfection of our actions 

consists, and of . some means to do them well . . 88 

IV. Of another means to do our actions well, which is to 

do them as if we had nothing else to do . . .92 
V. Of another means, which is to do every action as if 

it were to be the last of our life 95 

VI. Of another means of doing our actions well, which is 

to take no account of anything beyond to-day . . 100 

VII. Of another means to do our actions well, which is to 

get into a way of so doing them 102 

VIII. Of how great importance it is for a Religious not to 

slow down in the way of virtue 106 

IX. How important it is for novices to make progress 
during the time of their noviciate, and accustom 
themselves to do the exercises of Religion well . . 109 

0/ the rectitude and purity of intention which we ought to keep in 

our actions 

CuAr. I. That in our actions we ought to shun the vice of 

vainglory . .115 

II. In what the malice of vainglory consists . . .117 

III. Of the loss that vainglory entails 119 

IV. That the temptation to vainglory assails not only be- 

ginners, but also those who are well -advanced in 

virtue . . . 123 

V. Of the special need that there is to beware of the vice 
of vainglory in those who have the office of helping 

their neighbour 125 

VI. Of sundry remedies against vainglory . , . .127 
VII. Of the end and good intention that we ought to have 

in our actions 133 

VIII. In which it is explained how we may do our actions 

with great rectitude and purity of intention . . 135 



Chap. page 

IX. That the reason why we find ourselves sometimes dis- 
tracted and thrown back in our spirituality by ex- 
terior occupations, is because we do them not as 
we should ... . . . . . . . 137 

X. Of the great benefit and gain to be found in doing 

one's actions in the manner aforesaid . . . . 139 

XI. A further declaration of the rectitude and purity of 

intention which we ought to have in our actions . 143 

XII. Of some signs whereby it will be known when one 

goes after things purely for God, and when one goes 
after them for oneself 147 

XIII. How we ought to go on growing and mounting to 

greater heights in rectitude and purity of intention . 151 

XIV. Of three degrees of perfection whereby we may ascend 

to great purity of intention and great love of God . 157 


Of anion and fraternal charity 

Chap. I. Of the merit and excellence of charity and fraternal 

union 162 

II. Of the need we have of this charity and union, and of 

some means to preserve us in the same . . . 168 

III. Of some reasons from Holy Scripture binding us to 

keep charity and union with our brethren . . .176 

IV. Of the manner and character of the union which we 

ought to have with our brethren . . . . . 179 
V. Here we begin to declare in particular what it is that 
union and fraternal charity requires of us, and what 

will help us to keep it .182 

VI. Of two other conditions of charity and union . . . 186 
VII. Of another thing that charity requires, and which will 
help much to preserve it, which is to have and show 
a great esteem for our brothers and always speak 
well of them . . . • . . . . 189 

VI H . That we ought much to beware of telling another, ' So 
and So has said this and that of you,' where it may 

give him any offence 19 2 

IX. That good and fair words help very much to preserve 

charity, while their contraries have a contrary effect 195 
X. That we ought to be much on our guard against biting 
words that may offend our brother, or give him 

any displeasure • -197 

XI. That we ought to beware of wrangling, contradicting 

and reprehending . . • • . . • • • ! 99 
XII. Of the good grace and kind words with which an office 

of charity should be exercised . . . . . • 203 





XIII. Of what we are to do when we have had any passage 

of arms or disagreement with our brother . . . 206 

XIV. Of three directions to be observed when another has 

given us some occasion of annoyance .... 209 

XV. Of rash judgments, explaining in what their malice 

and gravity consists .... .... 214 

XVI. Of the causes and roots whence rash judgments pro- 
ceed, and their remedies 217 

XVII. In which the above is confirmed by sundry examples . 223 
XVIII. Of other manners of union and friendships not good . 229 
XIX. Of the second manner of friendships and associations 

that are not good . . .. . . 231 

XX. Of a third sort of union and association very harmful 

to Religion 235 

Of prayer 

Chap. I. Of the value and excellence of prayer .... 247 
II. Of the need we have of prayer 249 

III. That we owe much to God for having made so easy 

for us a thing at once so excellent and so necessary . 253 

IV. Of two sorts of mental prayer 254 

V. How Holy Writ lays before us these two sorts of 

prayer 258 

VI. Wherein this doctrine is further explained and con- 

firmed 263 

VII. Of ordinary mental prayer 266 

VIII. Of the necessity of meditation 269 

IX. Of one good result and great advantage that we should 
draw from meditation, and of the method to adopt 

in order to profit thereby . 272 

X. Of other good things and advantages that there are in 

meditation 275 

XI. Of the. conduct to be held in meditation, and the fruit 

to be gathered from it . 277 

XII. How important it is to dwell on the acts and affections 

of the will . .281 

XIII. Satisfying the complaint of those who say they are 

unable, and have no idea how, to meditate and 
reason with the understanding 283 

XIV. Two pieces of advice calculated to aid us much in 

making our meditation well and drawing fruit 

therefrom 286 

XV. How it is to be understood that in meditation we 
should take to heart one thing, that of which we 
have greatest need, and insist thereon until we get it 290 




XVI . How we may dwell long in meditation on one and the 
same thing ; and a very profitable practical method 
of meditation by descending to particular cases . 295 
XVII, That in the consideration of the divine mysteries we 
should also proceed leisurely, and not pass over 
them superficially ; and of some means to help us 

to do this 302 

XVIII. A practical showing how it is in our power always to 

make a good meditation and gather fruit from it . 306 

XIX. Of some other easy means and methods how to make a 

good and profitable meditation . . . . .310 

XX. That we must be content with the prayer described, 

and not repine or complain at not reaching anything 

higher . . .317 

XXI. Of the causes of distraction at prayer, and remedies 

for it . . . . . . . . . . . 321 

XXII. Of other means of keeping up attention and reverence 

at meditation ......... 324 

XXIII. A great comfort for those who are troubled with dis- 

tractions at prayer . . . . . . . . 330 

XXIV. Of the temptation to sleep, whence it comes, and the 

remedies to meet it 332 

XXV. How proper it is to take some extraordinary times to 

give ourselves more to prayer ... . . . 333 

XXV!. Of the fruit that we should gather when we betake 

ourselves to these Exercises 339 

XXVII. Some directions that will help us to profit more by 

these Exercises 343 

XXVIII. Of spiritual reading, how important it is, and of sundry 

means that will help us to make it well and 
profitably . 346 


Of the presence of God 

Chap. I. Of the excellence of this exercise and the great bene- 
fits that it contains . . . . . . . . 355 

II. In what this practice of walking always in the pre- 
sence of God consists ....... 359 

III. Of the acts o£ the will, in which this exercise chiefly 

consists, and how we are to practise them . . . 363 

IV. Further explanation of this exercise, and a method of. 

walking in the presence of God very easy and profit- 
able and leading to great perfection . . . . 367 
V. Of some differences and advantages which this par - 
ticular exercise of walking always in the presence of 
God has over others 3°9 



Of examination of conscience 


Chap. I. The importance of examination of conscience . . . 371 
II. On what subjects the particular examen should be 

made 374 

III. Of two important pieces of advice how to hit upon 

and choose the right subject for particular examen . 377 

IV. That the particular examen must be made on one 

thing only 380 

V. How to divide the particular examen according to the 

parts and degrees of virtues 382 

VI. That the matter of the particular examen should not 

be lightly changed, and for what length of time it 

is well to keep it on the same subject . . . 390 

VII. How the particular examen is to be made . . . 393 
VIII. That in the examen we should insist and dwell prin- 
cipally on sorrow and purpose of amendment . . 396 

IX. That it is a very helpful thing to add some penances 

to the examen . 400 

X. Of the general examination of conscience . . . 403 

XI. That the examen of conscience is a means of putting 
into execution all other spiritual methods and direc- 
tions, and the reason why we do not profit by it is 
because we do not make it as we ought . . . 408 


Of conformity to the will of God 

Chap. I. In which two fundamental principles are laid down . 411 
II. Further explanation of the second fundamental 

principle 415 

III. Of the great benefits and advantages contained in this 

conformity to the will of God 419 

IV. That this perfect conformity to the will of God is hap- 

piness and bliss on earth 422 

V. That in God alone satisfaction is to be found, and he 
who shall set up his rest in anything else shall never 
find true satisfaction 427 

VI. Another way of showing how conforming ourselves to 

the will of God is the way to find contentment . . 432 

VII. Of other benefits and advantages that there are in 

this conformity to the will of God ..... 437 
VIII. In which it is confirmed by examples how pleasing to 
God is this exercise of conformity to His will, and 
the great perfection there is in it . . . . 44° 



Chap. page 

IX. Of some facts that will render this exercise of con- 
formity with the will of God easy and pleasant . 443 
X. Of the paternal and particular providence that God has 
over us, and of the filial confidence that we should 
have in Him 446 

XI. Of some passages and examples of Holy Scripture to 
aid us in gaining this familiar and filial confidence 
in God ... . . , . . ... . . 452 

XII. How profitable and perfect a thing it would be to 

apply meditation to this exercise of conformity to 
the will of God; and how we should descend to par- 
ticulars until we reach the third degree of con- 
formity .461 

XIII. Of the indifference and conformity which a Religious 

should have for being in any part of the world 
whither obedience may send him . . . . . 466 

XIV. Of the indifference and conformity to the will of God 

which a Religious should have for any office and oc- 
cupation in which obedience may place him . . 472 
XV. Of the conformity that we should have to the will of 

God in the distribution of natural gifts and talents . 478 
XVI. Of the conformity that we should have to the will of 

God in times of sickness . . . . . 484 

XVII. That we ought not to put our trust in doctors or drugs, 
but in God; and conform ourselves to His will not 
only in the sickness itself, but in all the incidents of 

the same 489 

XVIII. In which what has been said is confirmed by some 

examples . . . . . . . . . 493 

XIX. Of the conformity we should have to the will of God 

in death as in life . . . . 49$ 

XX. Of sundry reasons and motives for which we may law- 

fully and holily desire death 501 

XXI. What has been said in the preceding chapter, con- 

firmed by examples . 508 

XXII. Of the conformity which we should have to the will of 
God in the general afflictions and calamities which 
He sends us . . . . . . . . . . 5'3 

XXIII. Of a means that will help us much to bear well and 

with conformity the afflictions that the Lord sends 
us, as well particular as general, which is the know- 
ledge and inward consciousness of our own sins . 5 1 7 

XXIV. Of the conformity that we ought to have with the will 

of God in dryness and desolation in prayer . . . 522 
XXV. Satisfying the complaint of those who are dry and dis- 
consolate at meditation ..... . - 5 2 ° 

XXVI. How to turn aridity and desolation into a good and 

profitable prayer . . . . • • • 53° 



Chap. page 

XXVII. Other reasons to comfort and conform us to the will 

of God in dryness and desolation at meditation . . 532 
XXVIII. That it is a great mistake and grave temptation to 
give over meditation for finding ourselves in the 
condition aforesaid . . . . . . . . 535 

XXIX. What has been said is confirmed by some examples . 538 
XXX. Of conformity to the will of God in the distribution of 

virtues and supernatural gifts 541 

XXXI. Of the conformity that we should have to the will of 

God as regards the good things of heavenly glory . 545 
XXXII. Of conformity and union and perfect love for God, and 

how we should practise this exercise .... 548 

XXXIII. How much this exercise is recommended, and repeated 

in Holy Scripture 552 

XXXIV. How we may further extend this exercise . . . .554 

Of mortification 

Chap. I. That we must join mortification to prayer, and that 

these two things must help one another . . . 557 , 
II. In what mortification consists, and the need in which 

we stand of it 565 

III. That one of the greatest chastisements of God is to 

give a man over to his appetites and desires, aban- 
doning him so that he goes after them . . . 569 

IV. Of holy hatred of oneself, and the spirit of mortifica- 

tion and penance that is born of it . . . . 57 1 
V. That all our spiritual advancement and perfection 

•consists in mortification .- ... . . 574 

VI, That mortification is especially necessary for Reli- 

gious, particularly for such as have to do with their 
neighbour . . .577 

VII. Of two sorts of mortification and penance, iand how the 

Society embraces and practises both . . . . 580 
VIII. That mortification is not a hatred, but a true love, not 

of our soul alone, but even of our very body . . 590 
IX. That he who makes no effort to mortify himself does 
not only not live the life of a spiritual, but not even 

of a rational being 593 

X. That there is greater trouble in not practising mortifi- 
cation than in practising it . , . . . .595 

XI. Here we begin to treat of the practice of mortification 600 
XII. How the exercise of mortification ought to be put in 

practice . . . . . . '• . . . . . 603 

XIII. How we should mortify ourselves in lawful things, and 

even in things that must be done . . . . . 607 



Chap. page 

XIV. That we should chiefly mortify ourselves in that vice 
or passion, which has the greater sway over us and 
makes us fall into our greatest faults . . . .612 

XV. That we ought not to omit mortifications in small 

things, and how profitable and pleasing to God these 
mortifications are 614 

XVI. Of the harm and mischief that comes of neglecting 

mortification in small things . . . . . .618 

XVII. Three important admonitions upon this subject . . 621 
XVIII. That it is always necessary to exercise ourselves in 
mortification, how good and advanced soever we 

may be in virtue 626 

XIX. Of two means that will make the practice of mortifi- 
cation easy and sweet, which are the grace of God 
and His holy love . . . 630 

XX. Of another motive that will facilitate and make agree- 

able the practice of mortification, namely, the hope 

of reward .( 635 

XXI. What has been said in the preceding chapter is con- 

firmed by some examples . . . . . . . 638 

XXII. Of another motive that will help us, and render the 
practice of mortification easy, which is the example 
of Christ our Redeemer . . . . . . . 641 

XXIII. Of three degrees of mortification 644 


Of modesty and silence :■ 

Chap. I. How necessary modesty is for the edification and 

profit of our neighbour 649 

II. How necessary modesty is for our own advancement . 653 

III. Of the mistake of those who make small account of 

these exterior things, saying that perfection does not 
consist in them . .656 

IV. Of silence, and the great blessings and advantages 

there are in it 660 

V. That silence is a very important means to be a man 

of prayer 663 

VI. That silence is a main means of spiritual advancement 

and the attainment of perfection . . . . . 666 

VII. That to live in modest silence and recollection is not 

a sad but a very cheerful life 669 

VIII. Of the circumstances necessary for speaking well . 671 

IX. Of the vice of backbiting or detraction . . . 679 

X. That we should not lend our ears to detractions . . 684 

XI. That we must beware of all manner of lies . . . 688 

XII. That we should beware of jocose and ridiculous expres- 

sions, and saying smart and witty things . . .691 



Chap. pace 

XIII. That our talk and conversations ought to be of God, 

and of some means to make them so . . . . 695 

XIV. Of another chief reason making it highly befitting that 

our talks and conversations with our neighbours 
should be about God . . . , . . . . 699 

Of the virtue of humility 


Chap. I. Of the excellence of the virtue of humility, and the 

need we have of it 704 

II. That humility is the foundation of all virtues . . 707 

III. In which it is shown more in detail how humility is 

the foundation of all virtues, by going through the 
chief of them .710 

IV. Of the particular need in which they stand of this 

virtue, whose profession it is to help on the salvation 

of their neighbour 715 

V. Of the first degree of humility, which is to make little 

account of oneself and always think poorly of one- 
self 725 

VI. Of self-knowledge as the root, sole and necessary 

means to attain humility 728 

Vll. Of another main motive for a man to know himself 
and gain humility, which is the consideration of his 

sins 731 

VIII. How we should so exercise ourselves in self-knowledge 

as not to be discouraged or lose confidence . . .735 
IX. Of the good things and great advantages that there 

are in the exercise of self-knowledge . . . -739 
X. That self-knowledge does not bring discouragement, 

but rather courage and strength 742 

XI. Of other great goods and advantages that there are in 

self-knowledge .745 

XII. How much it behoves us to exercise ourselves in self- 

knowledge .......... 748 

XIII. Of the second degree of humility, explaining in what 

it consists 753 

XIV. Of some degrees and steps whereby to mount to the 

perfection of this second degree of humility . .758 

XV. Of the fourth step, which is to desire to be run down, 

and go for little or nothing, and to rejoice therein . 762 
XVI. That the perfection of humility and other virtues lies 
in doing the acts thereof with delight and pleasure, 
and how important this is for perseverance in virtue 766 
XVII. A further explanation of the perfection to which we 

must mount in this second degree of humility . 769 



Chap. bage 

XVI II. Of some means to gain this second degree of humility, 

and particularly the example of Christ our Lord . 773 
XIX. Of some human reasons and considerations that we 

have at hand to help us to be humble . . 776 
XX. Of some other human considerations to help to make 

us humble . . 779 

XXI. That a sure way to be regarded and esteemed by men 

is to give oneself up to the, virtue of humility . . 783 
XXII. That humility is the means to attain true peace of 

soul, and we shall never arrive at that without it . 787 

XXIII. Of another manner of means more effectual for gain- 

ing the virtue of humility, namely, by practising it 793 

XXIV. What has been said is confirmed by some examples . 798 
XXV. Of the exercise of humility that we have in religion). 805 

XXVI. That we must be on our guard against uttering words 

that may redound to our praise . . . . . 808 

XXVII. How we should exercise ourselves at meditation in the 

second degree of humility . . . . . .811 

XXVIII. How we are to make the particular examen on the 

virtue of humility . . .815 

XXIX. How humility is compatible with seeking to be re- 
garded and esteemed by men 822 

XXX. Of the third degree of humility 830 

XXXI. Further elucidation of the third degree of humility . 836 
XXXII. Further elucidation of the same 839 

XXXIII. Further elucidation of the third degree of humility, 

and how it comes thereof that the truly humble man 
takes himself for the least of all . . . . . 842 

XXXIV. How good and holy men can with truth hold them- 

selves to be the least of all and say that they are 
the greatest sinners in the world ..... 847 

XXXV. That this third degree of humility is the means to 

overcome all temptations and obtain the perfection 

of all virtues 852 

XXXVI. That humility is not contrary to magnanimity, but is 

the foundation and cause thereof 855 

XXXVII. Of other good things and great advantages there are 

in this third degree of humility 861 

XXXVIII. Of the great favours and benefits that God does to 
the humble, and what is the reason why He exalts 

thehi so much " . . . 866 

XXXIX. How important it is for us to betake ourselves to 
humility to make up thereby for what is wanting to 
us in virtue and perfection, that God may not 

humble and chastise us 869 

XL. In which what has been said is confirmed by some 

examples 876 




The great value we ought to set on Spiritual Things 

I wished, says the Wise Man, and there was given tne 
sense; I asked it of God, and there came upon me the 
spirit of wisdom; and I preferred her before thrones and 
royal sceptres ; and I made no account of riches in com- 
parison therewith, nor of precious stones; for all gold in 
comparison with her is as a little sand, and silver shall be 
counted as clay before her (Wisd. vii. 7). The true wisdom 
on which we ought to set our eyes is perfection, which 
Consists in union with God by love, according to the say- 
ing of the Apostle St. Paul : Above all.. I commend to you 
charity, which is the bond of perfection (Col. iii. 14), and 
joins and unites us with God. Now the esteem which 
Solomon says here he had of wisdom, we ought to have 
of perfection and of all that makes thereto. In compari- 
son with that, all should appear to us as a little sand, a 
little clay andvordure, as the same apostle said : I count 
all things as W$we and refuse in view of gaining Christ 
(Phil. iii. 8). This is a main means for gaining perfec- 
tion : at the rate in which that esteem grows in our hearts, 
at the same rate will our perfection grow, and the whole 
house and the whole Order. The reason is, because such 
as is the value that we set u pon a thing, such is the desire 
that we ha ve of objainmgjtj^for the will is a blind power 
and follows what the underatanding dictates and proposes 



TR. 1 

to it; and according- to the esteem and value that the 
understanding sets on a thing, so also is the will and 
desire to obtain it. And as the will is queen, and com- 
mands all the other powers and energies of the soul, as 
well interior as exterior, it follows that according to the 
will and desire that we have of a thing, will be our con^ " 
triving and taking means thereto, and our efforts to obtain 
it. Thus it is very important to have a great esteem and 
appreciation of spiritual things and of what appertains to 
our spiritual progress, that so the will and desire of them 
may be great, and great also our effort to procure and 
gain them, for in all these things like goes with like. 

A dealer in precious stones has need to know and form 
a right estimate of their value, under pain of being de- 
ceived, for in default of such knowledge and such estimate 
he will exchange and sell a stone of great value for a thing 
of very little worth. Our trade is in precious stones and 
pearls. The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant 
seeking precious stones (Matt. xiii. 45). We are mer- 
chants of the kingdom of heaven : we must know and form 
a right estimate of the price and value of the merchandise 
in which we deal, that we be not deceived, changing gold 
for clay, and heaven for earth, which would be a huge 
mistake. And so says the prophet Jeremy : Let not the 
•wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the strong man in his 
strength, nor the rich man in his riches ; but let him that 
glorieth glory in this, in knowing and understanding me 
(Jerem. ix. 23). This is the greatest of all treasures, 
knowing and loving and serving God, and this is the 
greatest business we can have on hand, or rather, we have 
no other business than this, for this we were created, 
and for this we entered Religion : this is our end, our 
terminus and our glory. 

Would that this esteem and appreciation of perfection, 
and of spiritual things appertaining thereto were deeply 
imprinted in the hearts of all, especially in Religious, and 
that we helped one another and roused One another to this, 
not in words alone, often treating of this in our ordinary 
talks and conversations, but much more by the example 
of our deeds ; that from them the beginner and the profi- 
cient and all may come to see that what counts in Religion 

CH. 1 



is spiritual things, much humility, much obedience, much 
devotion to recollection and prayer; not much learning, 
nor much fine preaching, nor, any endowment of natural 
and human gifts, — so says our blessed Father Ignatius 
in his Constitutions (Reg. 16. Sum.). And it is necessary 
for all to understand this from the beginning, and be 
nurtured on this milk, to the end that each one forthwith 
may set before his eyes and his heart that the thing to do *) 
is not to turn out a great scholar, or a great preacher, C 
but to become very humble and very mortified, since that f 
it is which here in Religion is esteemed and made much) 
account of. That fact it is which they come upon and get 
to see, who have their eyes open to take a right view of 
things. These humble and mortified men are they who 
are sought after and held in high esteem by all. Not that 
we mean to say that we should give ourselves to virtue 
in order to be sought after and esteemed. But seeing 
that this it is which is esteemed and made much of in 
Religion, everyone should bethink himself and come to 
see : ' doubtless this is the better thing, this it is that 
befits me, this is the right way : I mean simply to give 
myself to virtue and sincerely aim at my own spiritual 
progress, for all the rest without that is vanity. ' 

Hence it will be understood what harm they may do, 
who in their ordinary talk and conversation make it their 
whole business to discuss genius, abilities and talents, and 
rate this man and that man accordingly. The consequence 
is, that the younger members of the community, hearing 
this language of their elders, think that this it is that is 
current coin here and is valued, and this is the means they 
must take to thrive and grow to importance and be 
regarded. So they set their eyes upon this, and 
while the desire and esteem of learning, ability and 
genius grows upon them, their desire and esteem 
of virtue, humility and mortification decreases in pro- 
portion. So they come to make little account of 
the one , in comparison with the other, and choose 
to come short of virtue rather than of learning. 
Hereby many come to fall off, and even afterwards to lose 
their vocation altogether. Better would it have been to 
have spoken to them of the importance and necessity of 



virtue and humility, and how little learning and ability is 
worth, or to say better, how harmful it is, without virtue, 
— instead of engendering in them by such conversations 
the desire of honour and of making a figure in the world, 
and being held for men of genius and great talents, which 
is apt to be their first step to perdition. 

Surius, in his life of St. Fulgentius Abbot, supplies a 
very good example to this purpose. He says that when this 
holy prelate saw any of his Religious to be great workers, 
never ceasing all day long to serve and help the house, 
but saw on the other hand some not so diligent in spiritual 
things, nor taking such interest in prayer, spiritual reading 
and recollection, he had no great liking or esteem of them, 
and did not think they deserved it. But when he saw any- 
one much attached to spiritual things and very careful 
to make progress in them, although unable to do any work 
in the house, or be of any service, for his weak and sickly 
condition, he had a particular love and esteem for such, 
and rightly so, for to what purpose is the possession of 
great parts and talents, if the man is not obedient and 
submissive, and the Superior cannot do with him what he 
will. Especially if he thence takes occasion to resume a 
little of his free and easy ways and look for exemptions ; 
much better in that case he had never had those abilities 
and talents at all. If the Superior had to give an account 
to God whether he had in his house people who were good 
workers and of great parts, that would stand : but it is 
not so : it is not of that that he has to give an account, but 
of the care that he takes to get his subjects to advance 
in spirit and go on every day growing in virtue ; and how, 
according to the abilities and talents which our Lord gives 
to each one, they busy themselves about their ministries 
and offices, not losing for that anything of their spiritual 
improvement. And of that same thing God will ask 
account of the subject. Certainly, says a holy man : "In 
the day of judgment we shall not be asked what we have 
read, but what we have done; nor how well we spoke, 
but how virtuously we lived." 

Christ our Redeemer had sent His disciples to preach, 
and they returned very satisfied and pleased with them- 
selves, saying : Lord, we have done marvels and miracles: 



even the devils were subject and obeyed us in thy name. 
The Redeemer of the world answered : Put not your satis- 
faction and joy in this, that ye do marvels and miracles 
and command the devils, and they obey you; but rejoice 
and be glad that your names are written in heaven (Luke 
x. 20). We should put our satisfaction and joy in acquir- 
ing and gaining the kingdom of heaven, for without this 
all the rest will profit us nothing. What doth it profit a 

man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the: loss of hts, 

own soul? (Matt. xvi. 26). Now if we say this, and Christ, 
says the same, of the spiritual occupations and ministries 
of gaining and converting souls, that not on that account 
should we forget ourselves, because in that case it would 
profit it us nothing, though we converted the whole world, 
what is to be said of other occupations ? It is not the right 
thing for a Religious to be so absorbed and engrossed in 
studies, or let himself be so carried away by external occu-s 
pations, as to forget his own spiritual progress, his medi-. 
tation, his examen of conscience, his practice of mortifi- 
cation and penance ; and to put spiritual things in the last 
place and take the worst time for them, and if anything 
has to be left out, to let them be the things left out ; that is 
to live quite an unspiritual life, and not as a Religious. 

St. Dorotheus relates that he had for infirmarian and 
disciple, Dositheus, who was very diligent in his office^ 
took great care of the sick, had their beds well made and 
their rooms in good order, all very clean and neat. St.. 
Dorotheus went to visit the infirmary, and Dositheus said 
to him : " Father, there comes over me a thought of vain- 
glory saying to me : ' How well you keep everything ! how 
pleased your Superior will be with you !' " St. Dorotheus 
gave him an answer that quite cleared him of vainglory : 
" You have turned out a very knacky man, Dositheus, a 
very good infirmarian you have turned out, but you have 
not turned out a good Religious." Let each one then 
take care that this may not be said of him : ' You have 
turned out a very good infirmarian, or a very good porter, 
but you have not turned out a g6od Religious : you have 
turned out a very good student, or a very good university 
man, or a very good preacher, but not a good Religious. ' 
We have not come here for that, but to be good Religious. 



TR. I 

That is what we ought to esteem and secure, and keep 
ever before our eyes ; and all other things we should take 
as accessories and additions to our spiritual progress, 
according to those words of Christ : Seek ye first the king- 
dom of God and his justice, and all these other things shall 
be added unto you (Matt. vi. 33). 

Of those Fathers of the Desert we read that since they 
could not be always reading, or meditating and praying, 
they spent their spare time in making baskets and in other 
manual works, so as not to be idle, and some of them at 
the end of the year set fire to all that they had made, be- 
cause they were not in need thereof for their support, but 
they worked only to occupy the time and not be idle. So 
we ought to fix our eyes principally upon our own spiritual 
progress ; and as for other businesses and occupations, 
though they be with our neighbour, we ought to take to 
them as those holy Fathers took to making their baskets ; 
not for that should we forget ourselves or neglect our- 
selves, or lose on that account one point of perfection. 

So we should always proceed on this foundation, and hold 
it for a first principle, ever always to put in the first place 
the spiritual exercises which touch our own advancement , 
and never leav e them off for anythi ng, because this it is 
that must preserve and carry us forward in virtue : failing 
this, we shall soon see the falling off that will result. And 
we have abundant experience that, when we are not getting 
on as we ought, this always comes from our having grown 
slack in our spiritual exercises. My heart hath withered, 
because I have forgotten to eat my bread (Ps. 101). If 
the upkeep and sustenance of our soul fails us, it is clear 
that we must become weak and languid. And so our Holy 
Father much commends this to us, and warns us of it 
many times. One time he says : " The aim of all those 
under probation, and of all others, ought to be what makes 
for their self-abnegation and their increase in virtue and 
perfection." Another time he says: " Let all give due 
time to spiritual things, and try to increase their devotion 
so far as the grace of God shall impart it to them. " 
Another time : ' ' Let all give the appointed time to prayer, 
meditation and reading, with all diligence in the Lord." 
And notice the phrase, " with all diligence." 

CH, 1 



Hence it will be seen that however many occupations of 
obedience and official duty one has, it is not the mind of 
Superiors that on that account we should omit our spiritual 
duties, for there is no Superior that wishes you to break 
your rules, and rules of such leading - importance as these. 
So let no one endeavour to colour and gloss over his im- 
perfection and negligence in his spiritual exercises by a 
vest and cloak of obedience, saying; ' I could not make 
my meditation, or examen, or spiritual reading, because 
obedience took me off,' It is not obedience that stands 
in the way here, but the negligence of the individual, and 
the little affection that he has for spiritual things. St. 
Basil says that we should take care to be very faithful in 
giving to God all the times that we have marked for prayer 
and spiritual exercises ; and if at any time by some un- 
avoidable occupation we are not able to make meditation 
or examen at the due time, we must remain with hunger 
and desire to supply and make it up forthwith as soon as 
we can. So when we miss our bodily allowance of food , 
or of necessary sleep, for having been all night with an 
invalid, hearing his confession or helping him to die well, 
we take care to supply it forthwith, and never fail to find 
time for that. This is the will of Superiors, when they 
occupy one of us in the time of his spiritual exercises, 
as is sometimes necessary : they do not mean us to omit 
them, but to put them .off , and make them up afterwards 
very completely, according to the saying of the Wise 
Man : Be not hindered from praying always (Ecclus. xviii. 
22). He does not say, Do not hinder, but Be not hindered; 
let there be no hindrance or distraction to prevent you from 
ever holding fast to your prayer ; and for the good Reli- 
gious there never is such hindrance, because he always 
finds time to make it up and repair it. It is told of St. 
Dorotheus that being guest-master, and getting to bed 
very late, and sometimes rising in the night to give wel- 
come to visitors, nevertheless he rose with the rest for 
prayer, and had asked some one to call him, because the 
ordinary caller did not do so, knowing how he had been 
busied,— and this though he was not yet quite recovered 
from a fever. This was desiring in good earnest not to 
fail in his spiritual duties, not making an excuse of any 



indisposition, and so coming afterwards to go about out of 
sorts all day long. The same history tells also of a holy 
old man, who saw an angel incensing all those who had 
gone with diligence to prayer, and also the vacant places 
of those who were not there, for being hindered by obedi- 
ence, but not of those who were absent through their own 
negligence. This is a great consolation for those whom 
the occupations of obedience prevent from coming up to 
time with the rest for spiritual duties, and a warning not 
to fail in them through our own negligence. 


Of the affection and desire that we should have for 
virtue and perfection 

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice, for 
they shall have their fill (Matt. v. 6). Justice is the par- 
ticular name of one of the four cardinal virtues, distinct 
from the others, but it is also a common name for all virtue 
and holiness. We call a good and virtuous life justice 
(righteousness), and the holy and virtuous just 
(righteous). The Wise Man says : The justice of the 
righteous shall deliver them (Prov. xi. 6) : that is to say, 
their holy life shall deliver them ; and so the name is used 
in many passages of Scripture. Unless your justice be 
greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not 
enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. v. 20). So says 
Christ our Redeemer, meaning, " unless your virtue, reli- 
gion and holiness be greater." In the same manner is to 
be understood what Christ likewise said to St. John the 
Baptist, when the latter made a difficulty of baptizing 
Him, Thus it behoves us to fulfil all justice (Matt. iii. 15), 
i.e., to give an example of obedience, humility and all 
perfection. So, too, is the word to be taken in the phrase 
before us : ' Blessed are they who have such a desire and 
affection for virtue and perfection that they are positively 
hungry and athirst after it, for they shall have their fill,' 
they shall gain it. And this is one of the eight beatitudes 

ch. ii 



which He taught us and preached in that Sovereign Ser- 
mon on the Mount. St. Jerome, on these words, says : 
"It is not enough for us to have a mind for justice, unless 
we suffer a downright hunger for justice" : non nobis 
sufficit velle justitiam nisi justitiae patiamur famem. It 
is not enough to have some sort of desire of virtue and 
perfection ; we must needs have a hunger and thirst after 
it, so that we can say, with the Prophet: As the hart, 

noounded and hard-pressed hy the hunters , ihlrsteth after 

the fountains of waters, so doth my soul desire thee, 

I his^is a thing of so great importance that, as we were ' 
saying in the last chapter, on it depends all our spiritua l 
proficiency ; and it is the beginning and only means of 

attaining to perfection^ according to the saying of the 
Wise Man (Wisd. vi. 18) : The first thing necessary to I ^£4X/ln^ 
gain wisdom, — which is the knowledge and love of God, I 
wherein our perfection consists, — is a true and heartfelt I 
desire of it; and the reason thereof is because, as philoso- 1 
phers say, in all things, and particularly in moral matters, 

the love and desire of the end is the first cause that moves 
and sets all the rest to work. Thus the greater the love 
and desire of the end, the greater the care and diligence 
that is employed to gain it. Thus it is very important that 
the desire and affection for virtue and perfection be great, 
since the care and diligence in securing and gaining it will 
be great in proportion. 

So important and necessary is it that there should be 
in us this desire, — springing from the heart and drawing 
us after it, without there being need of others going to 
look after us,— that where the desire of advancement in 
perfection is not found, there will be very little hope. Let 
us take an example in the case of a Religious, and every 
one will be able to apply the doctrine to himself according 
to his state.MThe care and vigilance of Superiors over 
their subjects is good and necessary in Religion, and 
necessary also is rebuke and penance ; but when a man 
does things for this motive, there is not much trust to be 
put in him ; because this motive at most may secure his 
going on well for some time, while they are looking after 
him ; but if this good behaviour does not spring from the 



heart, from a true desire of his spiritual advancement, not 
much account is to be taken of it, for it cannot last. 

This is the difference there is between things that move 
by a violent motion and things that move by a natural 
motion ; those that move by violent motions,- — a motion 
proceeding from an external force and impression, — the 
further they go on, the weaker and feebler their course, 
as when you throw a stone up ; but in things that move 
by a natural motion, as when a stone falls towards its 
centre (the earth), the contrary is the case; the further 
they go, the more easily and rapidly they go. This is 
also the difference between those who do things for fear 
of penances and scoldings, or because people are looking 
at them, or for other human considerations, and those 
who are moved by love of virtue and pure desire of pleasing 
God. The good behaviour of the former lasts only while 
the scolding continues and an eye is kept upon them ; as 
soon as that is over, down they go. St. Gregory tells of 
his aunt, Gordiana, that when her two sisters, Tharsilla 
and yEmiliana, rebuked her for her frivolous conversation, 
and for not observing the gravity which became the Reli- 
gious habit that she wore, she showed a serious counten- 
ance while they were rebuking her, and seemed to take 
it well ; but when the hour of rebuke and scolding was 
over, she lost all that seriousness which she had put on, 
and wasted her time in the company of the secular 
young ladies who lived in the monastery. She was like a 
bow strung with a tight cord : as the cord relaxes, so also 
the bow relaxes and returns to its first position. Her 
serious demeanour, not coming from the heart, but being 
a thing put on, could not last. 

This business of perfection is not strained, it is not a 
thing to be done on compulsion, it must come froirrthe 
jlgart. So Christ our Redeemer ^S^to^&S^Tyoung \nan 
inthe Gospel, If thou wilt be perfect (Matt. xix. 21). But 
if you do not will it, all the contrivances and methods that 
Superiors can apply will never suffice to make you perfect. 
This is the solution and answer to the question which St. 
Bonaventure raises : How is it that in former times one 
Superior sufficed for a thousand monks, and for three 
thousand and five thousand (for so SS. Jerome and Augus- 

ch. ii WILLING IT ii 

tine say there used to be under one Superior) ; and now 
one Superior is not enough for ten monks, and even less? 
The reason is, because those monks of old had in their 
hearts a lively and ardent desire of perfection, and the fire 
that burnt within made them greatly to take to heart their 
own advancement, and press on their way with great 

The just shall shine, and fly here and there like sparks in 
a bed of reeds *i[Wisd. 111. 7). By this metaphor the Holy 
Spirit aptly declares to us the swiftness and readiness 
wherewith the just travel on the road of virtue, when this 
fire has caught on in their hearts. See with what swift- 
ness and readiness the flame runs on in a dry reed-bed when 
it takes fire. In this way the : just run on in the way of 
virtue, when they are kindled and aglow with this divine 
fire. Such were those monks of old, and therefore they 
had no need of a Superior to urge them on, hut rather to 
govern them in their fervour. But in the absence of this 
desire, not only will one Superior not suffice for ten monks, 
but ten Superiors will not suffice for one monk, nor be able 
to make him perfect, if he does not want it. This is clear. 
For what is the use of visiting him at meditation? Can 
he not do as he likes, as soon as the visitor has passed? 
And while he is there on his knees, he may be thinking of 
his studies, and of his business, and of other irrelevant 
things. And when he goes to give an account of con- 
science, can he not say what he likes, and be silent about 
what is most to the point, and say he is getting on well, 
when he is not getting on well, but badly? How idle it all 
is, if he has no wish and no earnest desire ! 

Here comes in well the answer that St. Thomas Aquinas 
gave to a sister of his, who once asked him how she might 
save her soul. He answered. " By willing it." If you 
will, you will be saved ; if you will, you will improve ; if 
you will, you will be perfect. This is the whole knot of 
the difficulty, that you should , will and desire in sober 
earnest and your desire should spring from your heart, 
since God on His part is quite ready to help us. If this 
willing on your part is not done, all that Superiors can 
do will be in vain. Ypu are the person that must ta ke 
to heart your own improvement, because that is yourjusi- 


ness, an d on you it depends and on no one else, and for 
that you have come into Religion. Let each one then 
make up his mind that on what day soever he relents on 
this point, and forgets himself and what regards his spiri- 
tual progress, and takes no further care to ensure his 
spiritual duties being well done, and keeps not up any 
ardent desire of improving and going forward in virtue 
and mortification, on that day he has missed his business. 
And so our Father, at the beginning of his Constitutions 
and Rules, lays down this foundation : " It is the interior 
law of charity and love which the Holy Ghost writes and 
imprints on hearts, that must preserve, guide and advance 
us in the way of His divine service that we have entered 
upon." This fire of the love of God, this desire of His 
greater honour and glory, it is that must ever be exciting 
us to mount and go forward in virtue. When this desire 
really exists in the heart, it makes us diligent and careful 
to obtain what we desire ; since our inclination is very 
industrious to seek and find what we desire, and means 
are never wanting thereto. Therefore the Wise Man 
says : The first thing for gaining wisdom is a true and 
hearty desire thereof (Wisd. vi. 18). 

And further this virtue coming from the heart carries 
with it another advantage, which makes it so effectual as 
a means : it is, that it renders things easy and sweet, 
however difficult they be in themselves. Else tell me, 
how came it to be so easy for you to leave the world and 
enter Religion, except that it came from your heart to 
do so? The Lord gave you a strong will and affection for 
it : that was the grace of your vocation. He rid you of 
affection for the things of the world, and set your affection 
on the things of Religion, and with that He made it easy 
for you. And how comes this to be so difficult to those 
who remain there in the world? Because God has not 
given them this will and affection which He has given you : 
God " has not called them," as they say, nor done them 
this favour of the grace of a vocation. Now as to enter 
Religion God made the way easy for you, by giving you 
a will and a great desire of it, so that not your parents and 
relations nor all the world besides were able to withdraw 
you from it ; so also to make progress in Religion, and 

CH. Ill 


make its practices easy to you, it is necessary to continue 
that will and desire wherewith you first came to it. While 
that desire lasts, its practices will be easy to you ; but when 
it drops, everything will be difficult and up-hill. That is 
why we find ourselves at times so heavy and lumpish, and 
at other times so light and sprightly ; let no one throw 
the fault on circumstances, nor on Superiors, but on his 
own want of virtue and mortification. Father Master 
Avila says : " A healthy and strong man easily lifts a two- 
stone weight ; but a sickly person or a child cries, Oh 
dear, how heavy !" That is the cause of our difficulty : 
things are the same as they were : at another time they 
were easy to us, and we never boggled about them ; the 
fault is in ourselves, that whereas we ought to be men 
and have grown in perfection, in virum perfectum (Eph. 
iv. 13), we are children in virtue; we have grown weak 
and slack in that desire of progress with which we entered 


That an excellent means and a very great preparation 
to receive favours from the Lord is to keep up a great 
desire of spiritual improvement 

It is very important to keep up this desire and this 
hunger and thirst after our spiritual improvement, since 
it is one of the chief means and best dispositions that we 
can have on our part for the Lord to give us the virtue 
and perfection that we desire. So St. Ambrose says that 
when a man has a great desire of his improvement and 
growth in virtue and perfection, God is so pleased there- 
with that He enriches and fills him with bounties and 
rewards; and he applies to this effect that which the 
Most Holy Virgin said in her Canticle: He hath filled 
the hungry with good things (Luke i. 53) ; and the Prophet 
in the Psalm had said the same : He hath satisfied the 
thirsty soul, and the hungry soul he hath sated with good 
things (Ps. 106). Those that have such a strong desire 
of virtue and perfection as to hunger and thirst after the 



same, the Lord enriches with spiritual gifts, because He 
takes great pleasure in the good desire of our heart. The 
angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel and told him that his, 
prayers had been heard from the beginning, because thou 
art a man of desires (Dan. ix. 23). And to King David 
God confirmed the promise of the kingdom to go down to. 
his descendants for the will and desire he had to build a 
house and temple unto the Lord, — although He would not 
have him do so, but left it to his son Solomon. Neverthe- 
less, He was well pleased with this desire, and rewarded 
it as if he had put it in execution. And of Zacheus the 
Holy Gospel says that he desired to see Jesus, and was 
seen first by Jesus, and He invited Himself and entered 
in by the gates of his house (Luke xix. 5). 

Solomon in the sixth chapter of Wisdom enlarges on 
this point further. Speaking of Wisdom, which is God 
Himself, he says : I easily let myself be seen by those who 
love me, and found by those who seek me. Do you know 
how easily? She (Wisdom) herself goe^s before and an- 
ticipates them that desire her in earnest, to show herself 
first to them. You have no sooner begun to desire than 
she is with you. He that riseth early in the morning to 
seek her shall not have much labour in finding her, going 
here and there, for on opening the door of his house he 
shall find her sitting at his door in expectation of his open- 
ing it (Wisd. vi. 13-15). The first object that he shall 
come across in opening will be this Divine Wisdom, which 
is God Himself. Oh, bounty and infinite mercy of God ! 
Not content with going to seek us, and knocking at our 
door time after time for us to open, — See I stand at the 
door and knock, He says in the Apocalypse '(in. 20), and 
in the Canticles, Open to me my sister^v. 2),^not content 
with that, but as though weary of knocking God sits at 
our door, giving us to understand that He would have 
come in long ago, had He not found the door locked. 
Nevertheless He goes not away, but sits down there ; so 
that on opening you may come upon Him at once. Though 
you have been slow in opening your heart to God and 
answering His good inspiration, He, notwithstanding, has 
not gone away. He is much more eager to come in than 
that : there He is, sitting at the door looking for you to 

CH; ill 



open to Him. The Lord waiteth to have mercy on you 
(Isai. xxx. 18). Never does friend desire to enter into the 
house of his friend, as God desires to enter into your heart. 
He is more eager to impart Himself to us and do us 
favours than we can be to receive them. H e is waiting 
for us to desire it and have this hunger- and thirst for it. 
Let him that thirsteth come to me and drink (John vii. 37). 
To him that thirsteth, I will give of the water of the foun- 
tain of life gratis (Apoc. xsi. 6). The Lord' wishes us to 

have a great desire of virtue and perfection, so that when 
He gives us any of it, we may know how to esteem and 
preserve it as something very precious, for what is but 
little desired, is commonly made little account of when it 
is attained. One of the chief reasons why we thrive so 
l ittle in virtue^ and lag~so far behind in perfecti on, i s 
because we have no hunger and thirst"^f jer^n£ rwe~^e^n-elt 
so feebl y and languidl y that th e desires" we have seem 
rather dead than a live. 

St. Bonaventure says that there are persons who have 
good purposes and desires, and never succeed in overcom- 
ing themselves, or doing any violence to themselves to put 
them in execution, according to that word of the Apostle : 
To will attends upon me, but to fulfil I do not see my way 
(Rom. vii. 18).' ' These in many cases are not true pur- 
poses or desires, but velleities ; you fain would will, but 
will you do not. - The sluggard willeth and willeth not, 
says the Wise Man : desires are the death of the sluggard: 
his hands refuse to do any work: all day long he is yearn- 
ing and desiring: it all goes in desires (Prov. xiii. 4 : xxi. 
25). Father Master Avila compares such people to those 
who fancy in their dreams that they are doing great ex- 
ploits, and when they awake from sleep find they do just 
the opposite, according to Isaiah (xxix. 8) : The hungry 
man-dreameth and eateih, but when he awaketh his soul is 
empty. So these people at prayer fancy that they desire 
to suffer and be despised and made small account of; but 
when they go out from prayer, and the occasion offers, 
their behaviour is all to the contrary : the fact is, they 
were dreaming all the while, and those were no true 
desires. Others liken them to figures of soldiers worked 
on embroidery, that are always holding their sword over 


the enemy and never come to deliver the blow, according 
to that saying of the Prophet : Yea, a man passeth away 
like a shadow and apparition (Ps. 38) : so some pass all their 
life in threatening without ever dealing a blow. The Pro- 
phet Isaiah likens them to the woman that is in the pains of 
childbirth, and never succeeds in bringing the babe to 
light : The children are come to the point of bringing forth, 
and there is no strength to bear them (Isai. xxxvii. 3). St. 
Gregory on those words of St. Matthew : Woe to them 
that are with child and are giving suck in those days 
(xxiv. 19) : says, " Woe to them that have not brought to 
light the good desires that they have conceived," but have 
stifled them within themselves, the children they had con- 
ceived, since never to bring our desires to the light of 
deeds is to stifle and slay them within the womb. Woe 
to them, for they pass all their life in desires, and death 
finds them without works ; because hereafter not only shall 
the desires they had avail them nought, but they shall be 
chastised for not having carried into effect the good in- 
spirations which the Lord gave them : their own children 
must turn against them, as they would have stood for 
them had they brought them to light. 

Absalom was hung up by his handsome golden 
tresses : so death shall come to many, and they shall be 
left hung up with their golden good purposes. The 
Apostle and Evangelist St. John in his Apocalypse (xii. 2) 
says that he saw a woman that was near her bringing 
forth, and hard by a huge dragon ready to devour the 
child new-born. That is what the devil aims at to the 
utmost of his power, when the soul conceives some good 
purpose ; and so it is necessary that we should try to the 
utmost of our power to make our desires such and so 
effectual that we may come to put them in practice. This, 
says St. Bernard, is what the Prophet Isaiah meant to 
say in these words so pithy and short : If ye seek, seek 
(Isai. xxi. 12). He means : Be not slack, since true desires 
and purposes ought to be effectual and persevered in, and 
such as to make us endeavour with solicitude and care 
more arid more to please God, according to that saying 
of the Prophet Micheas (vi. 8) : I will show thee, O man, 
what is good, and what the Lord requireth of thee: truly 


it is to do judgment and love mercy, and to walk carefully 
with thy God. These fervent desires are what the Lord 
asks of us, to reward us and fill us with good things. 
Blessed are they who have this hunger and thirst after 
virtue and perfection, for they shall have their fill (Matt, 
v. 6), God will accomplish their desires. We read Of St. 
Gertrude that the Lord said to her : " I have given to 
every one of my faithful a tube and duct of gold, where- 
with to suck and draw from my Deified Heart as much as 
he shall desire " : the said tube and duct He explained as 
being a good will and desire. 


That the more a man gives himself to spiritual things, 
the more hunger and desire he has of them 

They that eat me shall yet hunger, and they that drink 
me shall yet thirst (Ecclus. xxiv. 29) says the Holy Ghost, 
speaking of Divine Wisdom ; and St. Gregory says that 
there is this difference between the pleasures of the body 
and those of the soul, that the former we desire with great 
impatience when we have them not, and when we have got 
them, we make but little account of them. There in the 
world a man desires the Headship of a College, or a 
Professor's Chair : on gaining it, he at once reckons 
nothing of it, and sets his eyes on a bigger thing. Give 
him a canonry or an auditorship ; no sooner is he installed 
than he is weary of it, and begins to desire something 
higher, a place in the Royal Council, and after that a 
bishopric ; nor even with that is he satisfied, but at once 
has his eye on a higher post, and reckons nothing of 
what he has gained, nor finds any satisfaction therein. 

But with spiritual things it is just the other way : when 
we have them not, then they disgust and nauseate us : 
but when we have them and possess them, then we value 
them more, and desire them more, and all the more the 
more we taste them. And the Saint gives the reason of 
this difference : when we gain and hold temporal goods 
and gratifications, then we better appreciate their insuffi- 


ciency and imperfection : and when we see that they afford 
us no full satisfaction, nor the content that we expected, 
we make light of what we have attained, and remain 
athirst and desirous of something- greater, thinking to 
find there the satisfaction that we desired; but we are 
much mistaken, because the same will be our attitude of 
mind after the one success as after the other. Nothing in 
this world will be able to fulfil our aspirations, as Christ 
our Redeemer said to the Samaritan woman : Every one 
who drinketh of this water shall thirst again (John iv. 13). 
You may drink again and again of the water that is here, 
a little way further on you will thirst again. The water of 
the satisfactions and gratifications that the world affords 
cannot quench or slake our thirst ; but spiritual good 
things and delights, when they are attained, are then loved 
and desired more, because then their worth and value is 
better known ; and the more perfectly we possess them, the 
more we shall hunger and thirst after them. 

When a man has had no experience of spiritual things, 
nor has ever begun to taste them, it is no wonder, says 
St. Gregory, that he does not desire them ; for who can 
love and desire what he does not know and has had no 
experience of what it tastes like? So the Apostle St. 
Peter says : If ye have tasted how sweet the Lord 
is (I Peter ii. 3). And the Prophet : Taste and see how 
sweet the Lord is (Ps. 33). When you have begun to 
taste God and spiritual things, you will find in them such 
sweetness and delight that you will lick your fingers over 
them. That is what the Wise Man says in these words : 
He that eats and drinks of me, the more he eats, the more 
shall he hunger after me ; and the more he drinks, the 
more shah he thirst after me. The more you give your- 
self to spiritual things and to God, the more hunger and 
thirst after them shall you feel. 

But, someone will say,- how does this agree with what 
Christ said to the Samaritan woman? Here Christ says : 
He that shall drink of the water that I will give, shall no 
more thirst (John iv. 13). In that other place the Holy 
Ghost says by the mouth of the Wise Man that the more 
we drink, the more we shall thirst. How does the one 
text agree with the other? The Saints reply that what 


Christ said to the Samaritan woman must be taken to 
mean that he who shall drink of the living water which 
He there promises shall no longer thirst after sensual and 
worldly delights, since the sweetness of spiritual things 
and of God shall make them appear to him insipid. St. 
Gregory says : " As to one who has eaten honey all other 
things appear insipid, so when a man comes to taste of 
God and spiritual things, all the things of the world offend 
him and seem to him nauseous and sour." Sicut post 
gustum tnellis omnia videntur insipida, ita gustato 
spiritu desipit otnnis euro. But what the Wise 
Man says in that other place : They that eat of me 
shall still hunger and they that drink of me shall still thirst 
(Ecclus. xxiv. 29) : is to be understood of those same 
spiritual things, meaning that the more one tastes of God 
and spiritual things, the more he will hunger and thirst 
after them, because he will better know their value and 
have better experience of their sweetness and delicious- 
ness, and so will have more desire of them. Thus the 
Saints reconcile these two passages. 

But how make this agree with what Christ says in St. 
Matthew (v. 6) : Blessed are they that hunger and thirst 
after justice, for they shall have their fill. Here He says 
that they who hunger and thirst after justice shall have 
their fill : that other passage from the Wise Man says that 
they who eat and drink thereof shall still hunger and still 
thirst : how are these two things comparable, to go on 
being still hungry and thirsty and to have your fill ? To 
this there is a very good answer. This is the privilege 
and excellence of spiritual good things, that, while filling, 
they excite hunger, and while satisfying our heart, they 
excite thirst. It is a fulness attended with hunger, and a 
hunger attended with fulness. This is the marvel, the 
dignity and grandeur of these good things, that they 
satisfy and fill the heart, yet in such a manner that we 
always remain with hunger and thirst after them ; and the 
more we go on tasting and eating and drinking of them, 
the more that hunger and thirst grows. But this hunger 
is not painful, but satisfying ; and this thirst is not fatigu- 
ing or exhausting, but rather refreshing and causing in 
the heart a great satisfaction and joy. 



In truth, fulness and satisfaction perfect and complete 
shall be in heaven, according to that word of the Prophet : 
Then, O Lord, thou wilt fill me completely, and I shall be 
enraptured and satisfied, when I shall see thee clearly in 
glory: then shall thy servants be inebriated with the abun- 
dance of the good things of thy house (Pss. 16 and 35). 
But there in glory, says St. Bernard on these words, the 
sight of God will fill our souls in such a manner that we 
shall always remain hungry and thirsty : this glorious 
vision of God will never pall upon us, we shall feel ever 
a new joy in seeing and rejoicing in God, even as though 
that were our first day and our first hour in heaven. So 
St. John says in the Apocalypse that he saw the Blessed 
standing before the throne of the Lamb with grand music 
and rejoicing; and they sang as it were a new canticle 
(Apoc. xiv. 3). This canticle and this divine manna will 
be ever new to us, and will give us new relish, and we shall 
ever be in new wonderment, saying, Manhu, what is this? 
(Exod. xvi. 15). Such also are spiritual things on earth, 
• — inasmuch as they are a participation of those in heaven, 
— that while they sate and satisfy and fill the heart, they 
do so in such a manner that we continue hungering and 
thirsting after them, a hunger and thirst that grows upon 
us, the more we give ourselves over to them and the more 
we taste and enjoy them. But this very hunger is a reple- 
tion, and this very thirst is a great refreshment and satis- 
faction. All this should help us to have a high esteem and 
appreciation of spiritual things, and such an inflamed 
desire and affection for them that, forgetting and despis- 
ing all the things of the world, we come to say with St. 
Peter, Lord, it is good for us to be here (Matt. xvii. 4). 


That a desire of growing and going forward in self- 
improvement is a great sign of one's being in the grace 

of God 

There is a consideration, very important and very con- 
soling, that will be of much assistance in animating us to 
a great desire of self -improvement, a hunger and thirst 
after progress in virtue, and carefulness and solicitude to 
please the Lord daily more and more : it is that this is 
one of the greatest and surest signs of God's dwelling 
in the soul. So says St. Bernard : " There is no greater 
sign, no more certain evidence of the presence of God in 
a soul, than having a great desire of more virtue and more 
grace and perfection " : nullum otnnino praesentiae ejus 
certius testimonium est quam desiderium gratiae amp- 
lioris. And he proves it by what God says through the 
Wise Man : He that eateth me shall have more hunger, 
and he that drinketh me shall have more thirst. (Ecclus. 
xxiv. 29). If you feel hunger and thirst for spiritual 
things, rejoice, for it is a great sign that God dwells in 
your soul. He it is that puts into you this hunger and 
excites in you this thirst : you have struck the vein of gold 
leading up to this divine treasure, since you follow it so 
well. And as the huntsman's dog goes feebly and lazily 
when he has not caught scent of the game ; but when he 
has caught it he is excited to great activity, seeking the 
scent on this side and that, and never gives over till he 
finds the game, so he who has truly caught the odour of 
this divine sweetness runs in the odour of so precious an 
Ointment. Draw me, and we will run after thee in the 
odour of thine ointments (Cant. i. 3). God who is within 
you draws you after Him. But if you do not feel within 
yourself this hunger and thirst, fear lest perhaps God 
dwells not within your heart. This is the property of 
spiritual things and things of God, as St. Gregory says, 
that when we have them not we desire them not and have 
no care at all about them. 




The glorious St. Bernard says that he trembled and his 
hair stood on end, when he considered what the Holy 
Ghost says by the Wise Man : Man knoweth not whether 
he be worthy of love or hatred (Eccles. ix. i). But if this 
reflection that we do not know whether we are in the grace 
of God or out of His grace, made holy men tremble who 
were as pillars of the Church, what effect should it have 
on us, who have reason for alarm for the many causes that 
we have given for it? We have in ourselves the answer 
of death (2 Cor. i. 9). I know for certain that I have 
offended God, and I do not know for certain if I am par- 
doned : who will not tremble? Oh how much would one 
give to get some pledge and security in a matter which 
touches me so nearly! Oh if I knew that the Lord had 
pardoned my sins ! Oh if I knew that I was in the 
grace of God ! But while it is true that in this life we 
cannot have infallible certainty of being in the grace and 
friendship of God, without a particular revelation from 
Him, nevertheless we can form some conjectures which 
raise in us a moral probability thereof; and one of them, 
and a very chief one, is our being possessed with this 
hunger and thirst after spiritual progress and daily growth 
in virtue and perfection. And so this alone should suffice 
to move us ever to keep up this desire, in order 
to have so great a pledge and witness that we are in the 
grace and friendship of God, which is one of the greatest 
of consolations and satisfactions, aye, the greatest that 
in this life we can possibly have. 

This is confirmed by what the Holy Ghost says in 
Proverbs iv. 18 : The way and path of the just and 
their manner of procedure is as the light of the sun that 
goeth forth in the morning and the further it goeth, 
it goeth growing and perfecting itself the more, until 
it arrive at the perfection of mid-day. Thus the just, the 
further they go, the further they advance in virtue. St. 
Bernard says : " The just never cries ' enough '." Nun- 
quam justus arbitratur se comprehendisse, nunquam dicit 
' satis est,' sed semper esurit sititque justitiam, ita ut si 
semper viveret, semper quantum in se est justior esse con- 
tenderet, semper de bono in bonum totis viribus conaretur. 
Of such it is said : They shall go from virtue to virtue 




CH. vi 



(Ps. 83), ever aiming at going further until they arrive at 
the height of perfection. But the path of the slothful, the 
imperfect and evil, is as the light of evening, which goes 
decreasing and growing darker, till it comes to the dark- 
ness ,and gloom of midnight. The way of the wicked is 
darksome, they see not where they are likely to fall 
(Prov. iv. 19). They come to such blindness that they see 
not where they stumble, nor have any eye for the faults 
and imperfections which they commit, and no remorse 
of conscience for falling- into them. Rather, they often 
take that to be no sin which is a sin, and that to be a 
venial sin which perhaps is mortal : such is their mental 
confusion and blindness. 


Showing how not to advance is to go back 

It is the common opinion of the Saints that in the way 
of God not to advance is to go back : in via Dei non pro- 
gredi regredi est. This we will explain here, and it will 
serve us for a good motive for advancing in perfection ; for 
who would wish to go back upon what he has begun? 
especially seeing that that would be going against the 
sentence of pur Saviour in the Gospel : He that putteth his 
hand to the plough, entering on the way of perfection, and 
turneth back, is not fit for the kingdom of God(Lukeix.62). 
Words that should make us tremble ! The blessed St. 
Augustine says : " We don't go back so far as we make 
efforts to go forward : once we begin to stop, back we roll. 
Thus, if we wish not to go back, we must ever push on 
and .endeavour to go forward." Ubi coeperimus stare, 
descendimus : si volumus non redire, currendum est. The 
same is said, almost in the same words, by St. Gregory, 
St. Chrysostom, Pope St. Leo and many other Saints, and 
they repeat it many times. St. Bernard pursues this 
theme at considerable length in two of his Letters (254 
and 341). He there addresses a lax and lazy Religious, 
who is satisfied with a common life, and does not care to 
go further in his improvement, and argues with him in 

2 4 


this manner : ' ' You do not want to go forward ? No. 
Then you want to turn back? Not that either. What 
then do you want? I want to stay as I am, neither better 
nor worse. Then you want what is impossible. For in 
this world there is nothing that can stay as it is : that is 
the attribute of God alone, with whom there is no change, 
nor shadow of vicissitude " (James i. 17). O monache, 
non vis proficere? Non. Vis ergo deficere? Nequaquam. 
Hoc ergo vis quod esse non potest: quid enim stat in hoc 
sceculo? All things in this world are in continual change. 
The heavens and all things grow old, as a garment grows 
old; and as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they 
shall be changed: but thou art ever the self-same, and thy 
years shall not fail (Ps. 101). And particularly is it true 
of man, as Job says, that he never remains in one frame 
of being, nor in one state. He fleeth like a shadow, and 
never remaineth in the same state (Job xiv. 2). 

" Even Christ," says St. Bernard, " while he let him- 
self be seen on earth and conversed with men (Baruch iii. 
38), was He at a stand-still? No. St. Luke says of Him 
that as he went on growing in age, so he went on also 
growing in wisdom and grace before God and men (Luke 
ii. 52) " : that is, He showed in effect greater signs of 
wisdom and holiness. The Prophet says that He prepared 
Himself to run His way : He exulted as a giant to run his 
way (Ps. 18). If then we wish to abide with Christ, we 
must go at the pace that He took, says St. John. Whoever 
professeth to abide in him, must walk as he walked (I John 
ii. 6). " But if when Christ runs, you run not, but stand 
still, it is clear that you will get further and further away 
from Him, and remain far behind : Si illo currente tu 
gradum sistis, non Christo appropias, sed te magis 
elongas." (St. Bernard.) 

Jacob saw a ladder that reached from earth to heaven ; 
and he saw on it angels, but none of them did he see sitting 
or standing still, but they either mounted up or went 
down : God alone was seated at the top of the ladder (Gen. 
xxviii. 12). This is to give us to understand, says St. 
Bernard, that in this life there is no intermediate way of 
virtue between mounting up and going down, -between 
going forward and going backward, but by the very fact 

ch. vi NO STOPPING 25 

of a man's not going forward he goes backward. As 
when we work at the winch, the wheel flies back as soon 
as we stop it; so from the same moment you desist from 
going forward in virtue, you must of necessity go back- 
ward. Abbot Theodore puts the same thought in these 
terms, recounted by Cassian. " We must apply ourselves 
to the study of virtue without remissness, and seriously 
exercise ourselves in the practice of it, lest coming once 
to cease from growing better, we immediately begin to 
grow less perfect ; for our souls cannot rest long in the 
same state, sO as to grow neither better nor worse in 
virtue ; for we lose what we do not gain, and whosoever 
flags in the desire of growing better will not be out of 
danger of falling away. '•' 

Still someone will say : That is well said, and must 
be true, and so it will turn out, since Saints say so ; but all 
this has the appearance of talking in parables, figures and 
enigmas: explain to us this parable (Matt. xv. 15). That 
I will.. The Saints explain it at length. Cassian does so 
by an excellent comparison, which is also used by St. 
Gregory. As a man in midstream of a rushing river,, if he 
tries to stop, and does not labour to mount upstream, will 
run great risk of going with the current downstream, so 
they say it is with a man in the way of spiritual life. This 
way is so upstream, and so difficult to our nature corrupted 
by sin, that if a man does not labour and force himself 
to go on he will be carried away downstream by the current 
of his passions. Anyone steering his bark with tide and 
current against him, if he ceases to use his arms and row 
to make his way, finds himself thrown a long way back. ; 
The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent 
bear it away (Matt. xi. 12). We need to go on continu- 
ally, using our arms and forcing our way against the 
current of our passions, otherwise we shall find ourselves 
decidedly deteriorated and thrown back. 

St. Jerome and St. Chrysostom further declare this, 
along with another common doctrine of Saints and Theo- 
logians; and St. Thomas deals with it in speaking of the 
Religious State (2a — 2ae, q. 184, art. 5). St. Thomas says 
there that Religious are in a state of perfection, not that 
that are perfect as soon as they are Religious, but that 



they are bound to aspire and yearn after perfection ; and 
whoever concerns himself not at all about being perfect, 
he says that he is a Religious in pretence only, since he 
does not that for which he came into Religion. I do not 
here go into the question whether a Religious would sin 
mortally, who should say : ' I am satisfied with keeping 
the commandments of God and my essential vows ; but as 
for those other rules that do not bind under sin, I have 
no mind to observe them.' On this point doctors speak 
differently. Some say that he would sin mortally : others 
say that it would not be a mortal sin, unless there entered 
into it some sort of contempt. But what is certain, and 
what all agree in, is this, that a Religious with that will 
and purpose would be a bad Religious, a scandal and an 
ill example, and that, morally speaking, he would be in 
great danger of falling into mortal sin : because he that 
despiseth and maketh small account of small things, little 
by little will come to fall into great sins (Ecclus. xix. i). 
This is quite enough for our purpose, since it is a clear 
case of going back. 

For the better understanding of this point, St. Chrysos- 
tom alleges some homely examples. If you had a slave, 
he says, who was neither thief, nor gamester, nor drunk- 
ard, but faithful and temperate and clear of all vice, but 
sat all day in the house doing none of the things that 
belonged to his duty, who doubts but that he would deserve 
to be severely chastised, though there were nothing else 
bad about him, because it is bad enough not to do one's 
duty. Again, if a labourer were a good man in all other 
respects, but simply folded his arms, and had no mind to 
sow or plough, or dress vines, that would be clear matter 
of rebuke, though he did no other harm, since we judge it 
bad enough for a man not to do what his duty demands. 
Further, in your own body, if you had a hand that did you 
no harm, but was idle and useless and served not the other 
members of the body, would you not reckon that evil 

In the same way in spiritual things, the Religious who 
here in Religion stands idle with his arms folded, without 
going forward, or troubling himself about perfection, or 
making any advance in virtue, deserves a severe reprimand 

ch. vi 



for not doing what is proper to his office and condition. 
His very not doing good is doing evil. His very not ad- 
vancing is going back, since he fails in the duty of his 
profession. What worse thing could you look for in a 
piece of land than its being barren and bearing no fruit, 
especially if it has been well worked and cultivated ! But 
a land like yours, cultivated with so much care, watered 
by so many showers of heavenly graces, warmed by such 
rays of the sun of justice, with all this bearing no fruit, 
but become an arid and sterile waste, — what greater evil 
could you look for than such sterility ! This is rendering 
evil for good to Him to whom you owe so much, and from 
whom so many blessings have come to you. 

There is another comparison often employed to the same 
purpose, which seems to put the matter well. As at sea 
there is a sort of dull weather called ' a calm,' very 
dangerous for navigators, since they consume the pro- 
visions they had for the voyage, and then find themselves 
without victuals in the midst of the sea, so it happens to 
those who are navigating the stormy sea of this, world. 
They are becalmed in virtue, not caring to go on any 
further therein : they consume and waste what they had 
acquired, run through what virtue they had, and then find 
themselves with nothing in the midst of the many waves 
and tempests of temptations that arise, and the occasions 
that offer, for which they need more provision and more 
store of virtue. Woe to him that gets becalmed in virtue. 
You were running well, who has hindered you from obey- 
ing the truth? (Gal. v. 7). You began to run well when 
you, entered Religion, and now you are stranded and be- 
calmed in virtue. You are now full and in need of nothing 
(I Cor. iv. 8). You play the senior and the man worn out 
with toil. You are rich, and have secured a competence. 
Consider that you have still a long way to go (3 Kings 
xix. 7) ; that many occasions will arise requiring greater 
humility, greater patience, greater mortification and de- 
tachment ; and you may find yourself unprovided and very 
behindhand in the hour of your greatest need. 


That it is a great aid to the attainment of perfection 
to forget any good done in the fast, and fix our eye on 
what remains still to be done 

Let him that is just aim at becoming more just, and him 
that is holy at becoming more holy (Apoc. xxii. n). St. 
Jerome and Bede upon these words : Blessed are they that 
hunger and thirst after justice, for they shall have their 
fill (Matt. v. 6) : say that Christ our Redeemer clearly 
teaches us in these words "never to think that what we 
have attained is sufficient, but every day to aim at becom- 
ing better" : nunquam no s satis justos aestimare debere, 
sed quotidianum justitiae semper amare profectum. That 
is what the glorious Evangelist St. John says in the words 
above quoted. The Apostle, St. Paul, writing to the Phi- 
lippians, gives a very suitable means thereto, which he 
says he made use of himself. Brethren, I do not take 
myself to be perfect. Who shall take himself to be per- 
fect, if the Apostle says that he does not hold himself for 
such? But I try to make haste to gain perfection. And 
what do you do for that? Do you know what? I forget 
the past, and put before me what has still to be done; and 
to this I animate myself and aim at securing it (Phil. iii. 
13). All the Saints greatly commend this means, and no 
wonder, since it was given and practised by the Apostle. 
St. Jerome says : " Whoever wishes to be a saint, let him 
forget all the good that he has done in the past, and 
rouse himself to secure what is still undone. Blessed is he 
who every day advances in virtue and perfection : and who 
is he ? Do you know who ? He who regards not what he 
did yesterday, but what it will be well to do to-day in 
order to make progress." Felix est qui quotidie proficit, 
qui non considerat quid heri fecerit, sed quid hodie faciat 
ut proficiat. 

St. Gregory and St. Bernard declare this more in detail. 
This practice has two principal parts. The first is to 
forget the good we have done hitherto, and never set our 



eyes on it. It is necessary to give this warning in par- 
ticular, because it is natural to turn our eyes readily on 
what pleases us, and withdraw them from what may give 
us trouble. And because the sight of the progress we have 
made, and the good that we think we have done, pleases 
us, and the sight of our spiritual poverty and 
the amount that is still wanting to us saddens us, 
therefore our eyes rather turn to look at the good that we 
have done than at what remains undone. St. Greg-ory 
says : " As the sick man seeks the softest part of his bed, 
and the freshest and most agreeable, to rest there, such is 
the infirmity of man and our frailty and imperfection 
that we find more joy and delight in looking at and think- 
ing of the good that we have done than of that which re- 
mains for us still to make up." And St. Bernard further 
says : " Understand that there are dangers here : for if 
you set yourself to look at the good you have done, the 
result will be that you will get proud, thinking that you 
are something ; thence you will come at once to compare 
yourself with others, and prefer yourself to them, and even 
make light of them and much of yourself." For proof, 
look at that Pharisee in the Gospel, what end he came to in 
this way. He set his eyes on the good that there was in 
him, and applied his mind to reckoning up his virtues. I 
thank thee O Lord, that I am not as other men, robbers, 
unjust, adulterers, nor as that publican there: I fast twice 
a week, I pay punctually my tithes and first-fruits. Amen, 
I say unto you, says Christ our Redeemer, that that pub- 
lican, to whom he preferred himself, went away just, and 
he who took himself for just, went out condemned as 
wicked and unjust (Luke xviii. n, 14). This is what the 
devil aims at in setting before you the good that you fancy 
you have done. His aim is that you should take yourself 
for somebody and become proud, and should despise others 
and make light of them, that so you may come to be con- 
demned for a proud and bad man. 

There is yet another danger, as St. Bernard says, in fix- 
ing your eyes on the good you have done and the labours' 
you have undergone : it is, that it will serve to make you 
careless of further progress, lukewarm and slack when 
there is question of going on, thinking that you have done 


enough work in Religion and that you may now take your 
ease. Travellers, when they begin to grow weary of the 
road, turn their eyes back to see how much of it they have 
already gone : so when we are weary, and lukewarmness 
is stealing over us, we begin to look at the work we have 
left behind : this makes us content with that, and apt more 
readily to settle down in our sloth. 

To avoid these disadvantages and dangers, it is highly 
expedient never to look at the good that we have done, 
but on the good we have still left undone : the sight of the 
former is an invitation to repose, the sight of the latter 
an incitement to work. This is the second part of this 
prescription which the Apostle gives us, always to keep 
our eyes on what is wanting to our performances, thereby 
to animate and compel ourselves to make it up : this the 
Saints declare by sundry examples and homely compari- 
sons. St. Gregory says : as the debtor who is a thousand 
ducats in another man's debt, does not rest or fold his 
arms upon having paid two hundred or four hundred, but 
keeps his eye ever fixed upon what still remains to pay ; 
that it is that troubles him, and he is always in some 
solicitude until he has paid the whole debt ; so we should 
not look at the good we have done hitherto, whereby we 
have paid part of the debt that we owe to God, but at the 
amount which remains to us to pay : this it is that should 
give us anxiety, this is the thorn that we should ever keep 
fixed in our heart. St. Gregory further says : As pil- 
grims and good travellers do not consider how far they 
have gone, but how far they have yet got to go, and keep 
that before their eyes until they have finished their journey ; 
so we, since we are travellers and wayfarers on the road 
to our heavenly country, should not look at the road we 
have gone over, but at the road that remains for us to go. 
Mark, he says, how for men on a journey, bound for a 
certain place, it avails little to have gone far if they do 
not complete the bit still to be gone. Mark again how the 
prize in a race, which is destined for the best runner, is 
not taken by him who runs a great part of the way nimbly, 
and flags at the end. So run that ye may attain, says the 
Apostle (I Cor. ix. 24). Take care to run in such a way 
as to attain and compass what you are aiming at. Take 




no account of the run you have made up to this, but keep 
your eyes steadily on the goal of your journey, which is 
perfection, and see how much you come short of it, and so 
you will get along well. " He never ceases running," 
says St. Chrysostom, " who reflects that he has' not 
reached the goal." 

St. Bernard says that we should be like the merchants 
and traders of the world. You will see, a merchant, a busi- 
ness man, taking such care and pains daily to increase 
his property as to reckon nothing of what he has gained 
and acquired hitherto, nor of the labour that it has cost 
him ; all his care and solicitude is for fresh gains, and a 
daily increase more and more; as though hitherto he had 
done nothing and gained nothing; in this manner, he 
says, We should behave. All our care should be how daily 
to increase our store, how daily to make profit in humility, 
charity, mortification and all other virtues, taking no 
account of how we have laboured and what we have ac- 
quired hitherto. So says Christ our Redeemer, that the 
kingdom of heaven is like a merchant, and He bids us 
do business : traffic till I come (Luke xix. 13). 

And to carry on further this comparison of a merchant, 
since the holy gospel puts it before us, see how merchants 
and men of business in the world are so careful and solici- 
tous as never to lose a point or miss an opportunity of 
increasing their store; and do you the like. Never lose 
a point, nor let pass an opportunity of making progress 
without seizing it. ' ' Let us all constantly endeavour to 
let slip no point of perfection that by God's grace we can 
attain, " is the direction of our Father. Let slip no occa- 
sion of contriving to make some spiritual gain, — from the 
biting little word that some one has said to you, 
from the command of -obedience given against your 
will, from the occasion of humility that offers. All these 
are your gains, and you should go to seek and gather in 
these occasions ; and on the day that the greatest number 
come in your Way you should go to bed happier than usual 
with the greatest satisfaction and cheerfulness, as does 
the merchant on the day that most occasions of gain pre- 
sent themselves, seeing that on that day his business has 
gone well. So also on that day your business as a Reli- 

3 2 


gious has gone well, if you have known how to profit by 
your opportunities. And as the merchant does not con- 
sider whether another man loses, nor is concerned about 
that, but the one thing he takes account of is his own profit, 
and in that he rejoices ; so you should not look whether 
your neighbour does well or ill in giving you this occasion, 
nor whether he is right or not, nor be indignant against 
him, but rejoice in your own gain. How far should we 
be from worrying ourselves and losing our peace of mind 
when the like occasions offer, if we proceeded in this way ! 
If what might sadden us and disturb our peace is the very 
thing that we desire and go in search of, what will be 
able to trouble or upset us? 

Consider again how the merchant is so absorbed in his 
profits that he seems never to think of anything else. In 
all cases and happenings that occur, his eyes and his heart 
at once turn to see how he can make some profit there- 
from. When he is eating, he is thinking of this ; and with 
this thought and care he goes to bed ; with this he awakes 
at night and rises in the morning, and goes thinking of it 
all day long. Now in this way we ought to proceed in the 
business of our souls : in all cases and happenings that 
occur, our eyes and heart should at once turn to see how 
we can make some spiritual profit thereof. This should 
be our thought when we sit at table : with this thought 
and care we should rise in the morning and go about all 
day long, and all our life long. For this is our business 
and our treasure, and there is nothing else for us to seek. 
St. Bonaventure adds that as the merchant does not find 
all that he desires and needs in one market or fair, but 
in several : so the Religious must seek to draw spiritual 
profit not only from prayer and spiritual consolation, but 
also from temptations, mean and lowly occupations, and 
from every occasion that offers. 

Oh if we sought and strove after virtue in this fashion : 
how soon should we find ourselves rich ! If thou seekest, 
says the Wise Man, after virtue and perfection, which is 
true wisdom, with the care and diligence wherewith men 
of the world seek after money and dig for minerals and 
treasures, without doubt thou wilt light upon it (Prov. ii. 
3-5). And the Lord does not ask much of us in this, says 


CH. Vll 



St. Bernard, since to gain true wisdom and the true 
treasure, ' which is God Himself, He does not ask of us 
more care and diligence than men of the world employ in 
gaining perishable riches, which are liable to maggots and 
robbers, and to-morrow must come to an end ; whereas 
the craving and desire of spiritual goods, and solicitude to 
attain them, ought to be greater in proportion as those 
goods are greater and more precious than the temporal. 
Hence St. Bernard's lamentation : " It is a great confusion 
and shame to us to see how much more diligent and care- 
ful worldly people are about worldly things, and even about 
their vices and sins, than we are about virtue ; and with 
how much more promptitude and alacrity they run to their 
death than we to our life. " 

It is set down in ecclesiastical history, that the Abbot 
Pambo, going one day to Alexandria, and meeting with a 
worldly woman that was very finely dressed, began to 
weep bitterly, crying put several times : " Alas ! What a 
miserable man am I!" And his disciples having asked 
him why he sighed and wept so bitterly, he answered : 
" Would you not have me weep to see this miserable 
woman taking more care and diligence to please men, than 
I do to please God; and to see her at greater pains to lay 
snares for men, to drag them into hell, than I use endeav- 
ours to gain them for heaven?" Also, that apostolic 
man, Father Francis Xavier, was ashamed and extremely 
troubled to see that merchants had got before him into 
Japan, and that they had been more diligent to sail thither 
to sell their merchandise, than he had been to carry thither 
the treasure of the Gospel, propagate the faith, and in- 
crease the kingdom of God. Let us conceive the same 
thoughts, and be filled with a holy confusion to see that the 
children of this world are wiser and more careful in the 
concerns of this life than we are in our concerns for heaven 
(Luke xvi. 8). Let this be enough to draw US out of our 
tepidity and sloth. 



That it is a great aid to perfection to fix our eyes on 
lofty and exalted things 

Our advancement in perfection will be greatly helped on 
by our fixing our eyes on lofty ideals that require great 
perfection to realise. So St. Paul advises, writing to the 
Corinthians : Be ye emulous of the better gifts (I Cor. xii. 
31). Get yourselves ready for great things: meet and 
undertake things great and excellent. This is a determin- 
ation of much importance : for our designs and desires 
must needs reach out very far, if our performances are at 
least to come up to what is our strict duty. Where a bow 
or catapult is slack, then to hit the mark it is necessary 
to aim from three to six inches higher : otherwise, the 
string being loose, the missile will not go where you want, 
but by aiming higher it comes to hit the mark. We are 
like a slack bow or catapult. We are so poorly strung 
that, to hit the mark, it is necessary to aim very high. 
Man was left by sin so miserable that, to come to attain 
mediocrity in virtue, it is necessary for his purposes and 
desires to travel far beyond. Someone says : ' My only 
aim is to avoid mortal sin : I seek no further perfection. ' I 
greatly fear that you are not likely to attain even that, for 
the catapult is slack. If you aimed higher, you might 
reach that : but not aiming higher, I fear you must come 
short, and are in great danger of falling into mortal sin. 

The Religious who makes it his endeavour to observe not 
God's commandments alone, but His counsels also, and to 
keep not from mortal sins alone, but from venial sins and 
imperfections, takes a good way to keep clear of mortal 
sin, since he aims much higher than that. And when 
through frailty he does not reach the height he proposed, 
but falls somewhat short, he will fail in a matter of counsel, 
in some small rule, and it will be an imperfection, or at 
most a venial sin. But the other, whose only aim is not 
to commit mortal sin, when he falls short of that through 
the looseness of his bow and catapult, will fall into some 


ch. viii 



mortal sin. And that is why among people of the world' 
we see so many falls into mortal sin, while good Relk 
gious, by the goodness of God, are so free and far removed 
from it. This is one of the greatest blessings that we 
have in Religion, a blessing for which we owe many thanks 
to God, who has brought us thereto. Though there were 
no other blessing in Religion than this, that would be 
enough to make us live in great consolation and content- 
ment, and to hold it for a great mercy and benefit of the 
Lord that He has drawn us to such a life, since here I 
trust in the Lord that you will pass your whole life with- 
out falling into mortal sin ; whereas, were you in the 
world, I daresay you would not pass a year, or even a 
month, or perhaps even one week without it. 

Hence also will be understood the danger of the tepid 
and lax Religious, who thinks nothing of breaking the 
rules, and will take no thought for things of perfection, 
since such a one is very near a fall in some grave matter. 
So then, if you wish to advance, set your eyes on acquiring 
a most perfect humility, going so far as to receive with 
cheerfulness slights and affronts ; and God grant that, 
after all that, you may come to endure them with patience. 
Set your eyes on acquiring a most perfect obedience of will 
and understanding ; and you may be thankful if you do not 
fail sometimes in the execution of the thing commanded 
and punctuality in fulfilling the same. Try to store up 
resignation and indifference as if to undergo great difficul- 
ties and trials that might occur ; and, please God, you may 
so behave afterwards in the ordinary and common acci- 
dents of daily life. 

This, says St. Augustine, was the counsel of God, to 
put at the head of His commandments the highest and 
most perfect of them all : Thou shalt love God with thy 
whole heart, with thy whole will, with thy whole soul, and 
with thy whole strength: this is the greatest of all the 
commandments and the end of them all (Deut. vi. 5 : Matt, 
xxii. 37). So great is the excellence of this command- 
ment that Theologians and Saints say that its final per- 
fection is not a thing of this life but of the next. Not to 
be occupied with anything else but God, and always to 
keep all our heart, all our will and understanding and all 



TR. 1 

our powers intent on loving Him, is the state of heavenly 
bliss : we cannot in this life attain so far as that, because 
we are forced to attend to the requirements of the body. 
And though this commandment is so high and involves so 
great perfection, nevertheless the Lord puts it in the front 
first of all, that we may know up to what point we are to 
extend our efforts and whither we should endeavour to 
arrive. Therefore, says St. Augustine, did God from the 
very beginning put before our eyes this so great and high 
commandment, that having our eyes fixed on an end so 
high and requiring such great perfection, we should try 
to bare our arm and put the weight as far as ever we can. 
The higher we aim, the less shall we fall short. 

On those words of the Prophet : Blessed is the man 
whom thou aidest, for he shall plan in his heart increases 
and ascensions in virtue (Ps. 83), St. Jerome says : " The 
just and holy man ever has before his eyes the thought 
of ascending and going further in perfection : that is what 
he carries riveted in his mind, according to the saying of 
the Wise Man : The thoughts and purposes of the strong 
man shall ever be on .abounding (Prov. xxi. 5)." But the 
sinner and the imperfect man has no such thought : he 
contents himself with an ordinary life : at most he sets 
before his eyes a standard of mediocrity, and thence he 
comes to fall away and go down. Gerson says : " This is 
the language of many people : ' An ordinary life is enough 
for me : I want only to save my soul : as for those high 
and excellent heights of perfection, let them be for Apostles 
and great Saints : I don't pretend to fly so high, but to 
walk along a flat cart-road '." Vox multorum est: sufficit 
mihi vita communis ; si cum imis salvari potero satis est: 
nolo merita Apostolorum, nolo volare per summa, incedens 
per planiora contentus sum. This is the language of the 
imperfect, who are many, since the perfect are few. Christ 
our Redeemer says in the Gospel : The gate and way that 
leadeth to perfection and life is narrow and strait, and there 
are few that enter thereby, but the common way of sloth 
is very wide, and many there are that go therein (Matt. vii. 
13, 14). St. Augustine says that these are they whom the 
Prophet calls beasts of the field (Ps. 8) because they seek 
always to walk in the field, a wide, spacious place, and will 


never be confined by any rule or restraint. And Gerson 
says that by such language as this : ' enough for me an 
ordinary life; so I be but saved, it is sufficient; I aspire 
not to any higher perfection,' a man plainly discovers his 
imperfection, since he makes no effort to enter in by the 
narrow gate. He adds further that these people who, 
through their sloth and tepidity, reckon that it is enough 
for them to be saved as second-rates have great reason to 
fear lest they may come to be condemned with the foolish 
virgins, who slumbered and slept, or with the slothful 
servant who buried the talent he had received, and was 
therefore deprived of the one talent he had, and cast into 
outer darkness ; and we find not in the Gospel that he was 
condemned for anything else but for having neglected to 
improve the talent his Master had endowed him withal 
(Matt. xxv.). 

But to make it appear more clearly how shameful and 
deplorable a condition those men are in, the same Gerson 
uses this example : " Imagine," he says, " a father of a 
family, rich and high-born, who has many children, all of 
them quite capable of advancing the family, and winning 
by their industry and abilities great honour to themselves 
and their lineage. AH apply themselves with care to do 
their duty except one, who, while all the rest are doing 
what sons of such a sire should do, alone, out of sloth and 
laziness, chooses to sit idle at home enjoying himself, and 
cares not to do anything worthy of his ability and the 
rank of his father to increase the fortune of the family, 
though, if he would, he could do as well as any of the 
rest. Enough for him, he says, is a moderate competence, 
he has no mind for further honour or further augmenta- 
tion, nor will he work for that end. The father calls 
upon him, begs and coaxes him to entertain higher 
thoughts ; puts before him his ability, talents and good 
parts, the nobility of his lineage, the example of his an- 
cestors and of his brothers still living : but for all that he 
has no mind to leave his fireside, or endeavour to be 
more of a man. Such a son clearly would give great 
annoyance to his father." In like manner says Gerson, as 
we are sons of God and brothers of Jesus Christ, our 
Heavenly Father keeps exhorting us and animating us to 



perfection. My sons, be not content with an ordinary life. 
Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt, 
v. 48). Look at the nobility and perfection of your 
Father, and behave as His sons whose sons you are, to 
show that ye are sons of your Father who is in heaven 
(Matt. v. 45). Look at the example of your brethren. If 
you will fix your eyes on the example of your elder Brother, 
Jesus Christ, He it is that has ennobled all our race, and 
though it cost Him His blood and His life, He gave it as a 
good bargain for that exchange. 

And if such an example is too dazzling for your eyes, 
fix them on your other brothers, men as weak as you are, 
born in sin as you were, full of passions and temptations 
and evil inclinations as you. It is for this that Mother 
Church puts before us the examples of the Saints and 
celebrates their feasts. And if you wish to take from what 
comes nearer home, look at the examples of your brethren, 
born of the same womb, of the same Religious Order and 
Society. Fix your eyes on a Father Ignatius, on a Fran- 
cis Xavier and Francis Borgia, on an Edmund Campion, 
and on others like them that you know. Try to imitate 
them, be not you a disgrace to your lineage and your 
Order. And if with all this there is anyone not animated 
to do deeds of valour, but content with an ordinary and 
common life, is it not clear that, as far as in him lies, he 
will give displeasure and annoyance to God Himself, who 
is our Father, and bad example to his brothers, and de- 
serves that the Heavenly Father should not own him for 
a son, nor his brothers know him for their brother? 

Now this is what we are saying, that we should cherish 
high and generous thoughts, and ever fix our eyes and 
heart on great and noble deeds, to the end that supposing 
in our weakness we do not attain so high, at least we may 
not fall so far short nor be so much behind. Let us do, 
in this matter, as men who offer wares for sale : to start 
with, they usually ask more than the just price, to the end 
that buyers may come to give them what is just ; and they 
who make bargains are wont at the beginning to demand 
further concession than is reasonable to bring the other 
party to reason, according to the proverb : ' Ask what 
is unjust, or more than is just, that they may come to 

CH. Vlll 



give you what is just. ' Iniquum petas ut justum feras. So 
it is here. I do not tell you to ask for what is unjust, 
but for what is most just. Fix your eyes on what is most 
just, that you may come at least to what is just. Ask 
and desire what is more precious, that so you may attain 
to mediocrity : for if you fix your eyes merely on medio- 
crity, and do not reach out to more, even that you will 
not attain ; but will fall far below. 

By this it may be seen how important it is that in our 
spiritual conferences and exhortations we should treat 
of things of great perfection, exhorting to a profound 
humility, even to the furthest degree thereof ; to a perfect 
mortification of all our passions and appetites ; to an entire 
conformity with the will of God, so that it should not 
rest with us to will or not will aught else but what 
God wills or wills not, His will being our whole content 
and delight, and so in other virtues. Someone may say : 
' What is the use of talking and preaching such high 
doctrine to weak folk, aye sometimes to mere beginners? 
If you proposed to us things proportionate to our weak- 
ness, plain and easy things, possibly we might embrace 
them ; but in speaking of these points of perfection that 
reach to the third heaven you seem to be not speaking 
to us, but to an Apostle St. Paul and the like of him.' 
You are mistaken, they are meant for you, it is to you 
we speak when we speak of these points of perfection; 
and the very reason that you allege for not speaking of 
them is our reason for speaking. You say you are weak, 
and that I ought not to propose to you such high things. 
I say that it is just because you are weak that I must 
put these points of perfection before you, that setting your 
eyes on them you may come to mount reasonably high and 
not remain so low and limited in virtue. 

For this end it is a great help to read much and hear 
read the Lives of Saints, and consider their excellent and 
heroic virtues ; it being the intention of Holy Church in 
proposing to us their heroic deeds, to invite us at least 
to get out of our sloth. And there is this other advantage 
in such reading, that it confounds and humbles us to 
consider the purity of life of these Saints, and how far we 
come short of it. St. Gregory, on those words of Job : 



He will look upon men, and say: I have sinned (Job xxxiii. 
27), says, that as a poor man is much more sensible of his 
own poverty when he considers the vast wealth and trea- 
sures of rich men ; so the soul humbles herself more deeply, 
and better knows her indigence, when she reflects upon 
those great examples the Saints have left us, and the 
glorious actions they have done. St. Antony, having 
been to visit St. Paul the first Hermit and seen his great 
sanctity, his disciples went out to meet him on his return, 
saying, " Where have you been, Father?" " Alas," 
replied the holy man, " miserable sinner that I am, I have 
no right to bear the name of a Religious. I have seen 
Elias, I have seen John the Baptist in the desert, since I 
have beheld Paul in paradise." We read also of the great 
Saint Macarius, that, having seen the sublime perfection of 
some monks, whom he had visited, the blessed man wept, 
saying to his disciples : " I have seen monks, these are 
monks, I am no monk. Woe is me, I falsely bear the 
name of monk." What the Saints said out of their deep 
humility, we may say with greater truth considering their 
examples. Thus by humility and shame we should make 
up what is wanting to us, and so on all sides aid ourselves 
much by this means. 


How important it is to set store by little things and not 
despise them 

He that neglecteth small things shall fall by little and 
little (Ecclus. xix. 1). The lesson contained in this saying 
is of great importance, especially for aspirants to perfec- 
tion. Great things of their own importance press upon 
our attention, but in smaller matters we are apt more easily 
to be careless and take little account of them as if they 
were of little value and importance, which is a great mis- 
take, not without serious consequences. So the Holy 
Ghost advises us by the Wise Man in these words, that 
we should beware of this danger, since he who despises 
small things, and takes no account of them, will come 
little by little to fall into great sins. This reason should 


be enough to persuade us and strike us with alarm, since 
it is the reason and warning of the Holy Ghost. St. Ber- 
nard treats this point very well. "They begin with little 
things, who afterwards fall into very serious offences. 
Let us be under no illusion, for the common saying is true, 
that, as a rule, no one ever comes to be on a sudden either 
very good or very bad, but good and evil grow little by 
little. Little by little great bodily ailments are developed, 
and spiritual ailments and great maladies of the soul in the 
same way." Thus when you see great falls of servants of 
God, think not, says the Saint, that the evil began when, 
it first came to your notice : one who has persevered a long 
time leading a good life, never comes to slip and fall all of 
a sudden : his fall comes of his first having become care- 
less of tiny little things, by which carelessness, little by 
little, virtue was weakened in his soul, and he deserved 
that God should withdraw His hand a little away from 
him, and so he was open to being easily overcome after- 
wards by a great temptation falling in his way. 

Cassian illustrates this by a very appropriate compari- 
son, a comparison used also by the Holy Ghost. Houses, 
he says, do not fall down of a sudden, but first the thing 
begins by some little leakages; then little by little the 
timbers - of the building rot; the mischief gets into the 
walls, and softens and imperceptibly ruins them, till it 
reaches the foundations, and then the whole structure, col- 
lapses in one night. By sloth and want of care, says the 
Holy Ghost in Ecclesiastes, the roof will come to fall,- 
and for want of taking care to repair it, the whole house 
will let the rain in (Eccles. x. 18). Through neglect 
of repairing the house at the beginning when the damage 
was small, through not tiling it and stopping the leak- 
ages, some fine morning it comes to present you with a 
ruin. In like manner do men come to great falls and very 
evil ends. First come in our little affections and our 
passions like so many small leakages, and they go on little 
by little penetrating and softening and weakening the 
virtue of our soul, and so the whole building goes crash 
from mere neglect of repairs at the beginning when the 
mischief was small. From negligence in stopping those 
little leakages, from taking no account of small things, 

4 2 


one fine morning a man comes to be. tempted, and 
another day he is out of Religion. Would to God we 
had not so much experience of this ! Truly it strikes one 
with great fear and dismay to see the first little cracks that 
were the beginning of the ruin of some who came to a very 
bad end. The devil is a clever fellow. He does not in the 
first instance assail God's servants in great matters, he is 
much too acute for that ; but, little by little, imperceptibly 
in small and minute things, he does his work better than 
if he tempted his man in great things. If he started with 
mortal sins, he would easily be perceived and packed off ; 
but entering by small and minute things he is neither per- 
ceived nor packed off, but admitted. 

Therefore does St. Gregory say that in some ways 
there is more danger in small faults than in great ones, 
because great ones are more clearly known and the evil 
of them accordingly is more in evidence, moving us to 
avoid them, and to feel more alarm when we fall into 
them ; but small faults are less known, less easily avoided, 
and made less account of; and as they are made nothing 
of, so they are repeated and continued, and men settle 
down to them and never make up their minds manfully to 
throw them oif ; and on the heels of small faults there 
come great ones. St. Chrysostom quite agrees. He says 
a thing which he calls a marvel. " I dare to utter a mar- 
vellous saying, which will appear to you new and unheard 
of : it is that sometimes we need take more care and pains 
over avoiding small sins than over avoiding great ones ; 
for great sins of themselves strike us with horror, so that 
we abhor and fly from them, but the other sins, by the 
very fact that they are small, make us remiss and negli- 
gent ; and as we make little account of them, so we never 
succeed in getting clear of them, and so they come to do 
us great harm." Mirdbile quiddam et inauditum dicer e 
audeo: solet mihi nonumquam non tanto studio magna 
videri esse peccata fugienda quanto parva et vilia; ilia 
enim ut aversemur ipsa peccati natura efficit, haec- autem 
hac ipsa re quia parva sunt desides reddunt, et dutn con- 
temnuntur non potest ad expulsionem eorum animus gene- 
rose insurgere, unde cito ex parvis maxima fiunt negli- 
gentia nostra. 




This is the reason why the devil sets so much store by 
this means of approaching and assailing Religious men 
and servants of God, because he knows right well that 
thereby he will gain a footing to succeed in making them 
afterwards fall in greater things. So St. Augustine says : 
" What matters it whether by a little or a great leak 
the water enters into the ship, so that in the end it 
founders? I care not for one more than the other, for 
it all comes to the same in the end." So the devil cares 
not whether he comes in by small things or by great things, 
so that he finally gains his end, which is to destroy and 
sink us. Of little drops of water multiplied, says St. 
Bonaventure, there come to be formed torrents and floods 
so great as to level to the ground high walls and buildings 
and strong castles. By a little leak and by a chink and 
crack the water silently and little by little makes its way 
into the ship until it sends it to the bottom. For this rea- 
son St. Augustine says that as when a ship springs a leak 
it is necessary to be always at the pump, pumping the 
water out that the ship may not founder, so by the help 
of meditation and examen we must be always ridding our- 
selves of the faults and imperfections that little by little 
are gaining upon us, that we may not founder and be 
drowned. This must be the exercise of the Religious : 
we must be always at the pump, otherwise we run great 
risk. And elsewhere he says : "You have eschewed and 
escaped the waves and tempests and great dangers that 
there are in the stormy sea of the world : see that you do 
not come here in the harbour of Religion to run aground 
on a sandbank : see that you do not come to danger and 
destruction by minute and small things ; for at that rate it 
will profit you little to have eschewed and escaped those 
great dangers and tempests and rocks and cliffs, if after- 
wards in the harbour you come to stick fast in the sand." 


Another weighty reason for setting great store by 
little things 

Another considerable reason why we should make ac- 
count of little things is, that if we are careless and negli- 
gent in little things, and take small heed thereof, it is to 
be feared that God will refuse us His particular and special 
aids and graces which we stand in need of, to resist temp- 
tations and not fall into sin, and to obtain the virtue and 
perfection which we desire ; and so we come to great harm. 

The better to understand this, we must presuppose a 
very sound piece of theology taught us by St. Paul writing 
to the Corinthians, — that God our Lord never refuses to 
anyone that supernatural assistance and succour whereby, 
if he will, he will not be overcome by temptation, but be 
able to resist and come out victorious. God is faithful, who 
will not permit you to be tempted above your strength, but 
will give you such aid in temptation as that you may be 
able to stand it with advantage (i Cor. x. 13). God is 
faithful, says the Apostle : you may rest assured that He 
will not permit you to be tempted more than you are able 
to bear ; and if He adds more trials, and there come greater 
temptations, He will also add more succour and bounty 
that you may be able to come out of them, not only with- 
out loss, but with much profit and increase of good. But 
there is another aid and succour of God more special and 
particular. Man could resist and overcome temptation 
without this special aid, if he availed himself as he ought 
of the first supernatural assistance, which is more general. 
But oftentimes, with that first aid, man will not resist 
temptation, unless God give him that other aid more 
particular and special. Not that he could not, but that 
he will not : for if he willed, he might well resist with that 
first aid, since it is sufficient for the purpose, if he would 
make the use of it that he ought. In that case, his falling 
and being overcome by temptation will be his own fault, 


CH. X 



since it will be by his own will. But if God gave him 
then that other special assistance, he would not fall. 

But to come to our point : this second aid and special 
superabundant and efficacious succour is not given by God 
to all, nor on all occasions, since it is a liberality and a 
most particular grace of His own bestowal ; and so God 
will give it to whom He pleases. He will give it to those 
who have been liberal with Him. So the Prophet says : 
With the holy, Lord, thou -wilt be holy; and with the be- 
nign, benign; and with the liberal and sincere, thou wilt 
be sincere and liberal ; and with him that will not be such, 
thou wilt pay him in the same coin (Ps. 17). This is what 
our Father puts in his rules : ' ' The closer one shall bind 
himself to God our Lord, and the more liberal he shall 
show himself to His Divine Majesty, the more liberal he 
will find God to him ; and the better shall he be disposed 
to receive every day greater graces and spiritual gifts. ' ' 
This is the doctrine of St. Gregory Nazianzen and other 

What it is to be liberal to God may be well understood 
from what it is to be liberal to men . In this world to be 
liberal to another is to give him, not his due and bonded 
right, but more than his due and bonded right. That is 
liberality; the other not, but justice and obligation. Now 
in the same manner he who is very careful and diligent 
to please God, not only in matters of obligation, but also 
in those of supererogation and perfection, and not only in 
greater but also in lesser things, he is liberal to God. Now 
to them that are thus liberal, God also is very liberal. 
These are God's favourites, to whom He shows His boun-j 
ties ; to these He gives not only those general aids which 
are sufficient to resist and overcome temptations, but also 
those special and superabundant and efficacious aids 
wherewith they will nowise fall when they are tempted, 
But if you are not liberal to God, how can you expect God 
to be liberal to you? If you are niggardly with God, you 
deserve that God should be niggardly with you. If you 
are so mean and close as to. go sounding and measuring as 
with rule and compass, — ' Am I bound or not bound? Am 
I bound under sin or not bound under sin? Does it 
amount to a mortal sin or to no more than a venial?' — all 

4 6 



this is being - niggardly with God, since you want to give 
Him no more than you are obliged, and even in that pos- 
sibly you fail. God then will be niggardly with you, and 
give you no more than He is obliged by His word : He will 
give you those general and necessary aids which He gives 
to all, which are enough and sufficient to enable you to 
resist temptations and not fall in them ; but you will have 
much reason to fear that He will not give you that special 
superabundant and efficacious aid which He is wont to give 
to such as are liberal to Him ; and so you will come to be 
vanquished by temptation and fall into sin. 

This is what Theologians and Saints commonly mean 
by saying that one sin is apt to be the punishment of 
another sin, which is to be understood thus. By the 
first sin, in punishment thereof, a man has lost all claim 
to that special and particular aid of God, and made him- 
self unworthy of it : so he comes to fall into a second sin. 
They say the same of venial sins, and even further of the 
faults and negligences and carelessness in which a man 
lives. On that account also they say that a man may lose 
all claim to, and render himself unworthy of, that special 
and efficacious aid of God, whereby he would have perse- 
vered and effectually overcome the temptation, and with- 
out which he will be overcome and fall into sin. 
So some Saints explain the words of the Wise Man : He 
that despiseth small things, shall fall little by little (Ecclus. 
xix. i). By despising small things and making little 
account of them, one comes to render oneself unworthy 
of that special assistance of God, and so comes to 
fall into great faults. In like manner the saying of the 
Apocalypse (iii. 16) : Because thou art tepid, I will begin 
to vomit thee out of my mouth. God has not yet vomited 
and thrown up entirely the tepid man, but He has begun 
to vomit and throw him up, because by this negligence in 
which he lives, and these faults which he commits with 
advertence and of set purpose, he goes the way to make 
himself undeserving of that special and efficacious aid 
without which he will fall, and God will end by vomiting 
and throwing him up. 

Let us consider how much reason we have to fear lest 
we should lose all claim and render ourselves unworthy of 

CH. X 



this special aid of God, through our tepidity and sloth. 
How often do we see ourselves assailed with temptations 
and in great danger, and many times we find ourselves in 
doubt,-—' did I dwell on it or not? did I consent or not? 
did it amount to a sin or not?' Oh how well worth our 
while would it be for those critical moments to have been 
liberal to God and so made ourselves worthy of that special 
and liberal aid of grace, whereby we should be quite secure 
of always keeping- our footing-, and without which we shall 

be in great danger and possibly be overcome ! 

St. Chrysostom assigns this means as one of the chief 
that we have for overcoming temptations. Speaking of 
the devil our enemy, and of the continual war that he 
wages against us, he says : " You know well, my brethren, 
that we have in the devil a perpetual enemy, who is al- 
ways making war upon us, who never sleeps nor relaxes 
his efforts : you can have no truce with that cruel monster. 
So it is necessary always to be very wide-awake, and very 
careful and watchful not to be overcome by him." How 
then shall we stand on our guard, and prepare ourselves 
well not to be overcome ; but always to get the better of 
this traitor and keep him under? Do you know how? 
St. Chrysostom says : "The only means to overcome him is 
to have gained beforehand this special assistance of God 
by our good life in the past. In this way we shall be 
always victorious, and not otherwise." Notice the 
expression, " not otherwise." St.' Basil makes the 
same observation in these words: " He who wishes 
to be helped by the Lord never ceases doing what 
lies with him to do. He who does this is never left desti- 
tute of the divine assistance " : wherefore, he concludes, 
" we must make it our effort that our conscience shall not 
reproach us in anything. ' ' A sound conclusion : we must 
be very careful in our spiritual exercises and in all our 
works to be worthy of this special aid from Heaven. 

Hence it will be seen how important it is to make much 
account of small things, if we can call those things small 
which bring us in so much good or so much harm. He 
who feareth God, neglecteth nothing (Eccles. vii. 19), be- 
cause he knows full well that out of small things neglected 
one comes little by little to fail in greater; and he fears 


that if he ceases to be liberal with God in these things, 
God will cease to be liberal with him. 

In conclusion I say that this matter is so important, and 
we should make so much account of it, that we may take 
it as a general rule, that so long as a man makes much of 
little and minute things, all will go well, and the Lord will 
befriend him ; and on the contrary, when he ceases to 
reckon much of little and minute things, he will incur 
great danger, because it is in this way that all evil enters 
into a Religious. This Jesus Christ gives us to under- 
stand, saying : He that is faithful in what is little, will be 
faithful also in what is much ; and he that is unfaithful and 
evil in what is little, will be the like in what is much (Luke 
xvi. 10). And therefore when one wishes to see how one 
is getting on in spiritual progress, — and it is reasonable 
that we should often make reflection thereupon, — let him 
examine himself by this, and see whether he makes account 
of little things or whether he is getting into free and easy 
ways by taking small heed of them ; and if he sees that now 
he does not trouble himself about small matters, nor does 
his conscience reproach him thereon, as it used to do, let 
him look for a remedy with all care. The devil, says St. 
Basil, when he sees that he cannot drive us out of Religion, 
applies all his powers to persuade us not to give ourselves 
to perfection, and not to make account of small matters, 
deceiving us by a false assurance that one does not lose 
God for that. But we on the contrary should make it 
our effort that as he cannot drive us out of Religion, so 
neither shall he hinder our perfection, but we will apply 
ourselves thereto with all our strength, setting much store 
by little and minute things. 


That the business of our spiritual advancement is not 
to be taken in general, but in particular; and of how 
great importance it is to put into execution those good 
purposes wherewith God inspires us 

It will also be a great help towards our improvement, 
—and it is a means commonly given by the masters of 
spiritual life, — that we should not take this , business of 
our improvement in general and on the whole, but in par- 
ticular and little by little. Cassian says that the Abbot 
Moses one day in a spiritual conference asked his monks 
what it was that they aimed at by all their labours, abstin- 
ences, vigils, prayers and mortifications. They answered, 
" the kingdom of heaven." , He said : " That is the last 
end, but I ask now, what is the immediate and particular 
end you are aiming at, whereby to arrive at your last end ?" 
Take the case of the labourer : his end is to gather much 
food, and have wherewithal to spend his life in abundance ; 
but all his care and diligence he expends in working at 
and cultivating the earth, and clearing it of weeds, for 
that is the necessary means to the other end. And the 
merchant, though his end is to grow rich, applies all his 
thoughts to consider what businesses and what method of 
doing- business will be most to the purpose for gaining this 
end, and there he applies all his industry and diligence. So 
the Religious should act. It is not enough to say in 
general : ' I intend to save my soul ' : ' I will be a good 
Religious ' : ' I desire to be perfect ' : but he must fix his 
eyes in particular on the passion or vice that stands most 
in his way , and the virtue that is most wanting to him ; and 
he must labour to gain that. In this way, advancing 
little by little, and proceeding with care and diligence, 
now upon one thing, now upon another, he will come 
better to attain to what he aims at. 

This is the means that another Father of the desert 
proposed to that monk, who after being long very diligent 
and fervent grew to be negligent in his spiritual exercises, 
4 49 



TR. 1 

and generally very tepid. Desiring to recover his former 
state, and finding the road closed and apparently very 
difficult, he did not know where to begin. The other 
consoled and animated him by this parable or example of 
a man who sent his son to clear the estate, which was 
full of thorns and weeds. The son, seeing the amount 
there was to do, lost heart and fell asleep, and did nothing 
that day and the next. The father said to him : ' You 
should not, boy, look at or take all the labour before you 
in a lump, but every day do a little, just enough to take in 
the body of a man. ' He did so, and in a short time cleared 
the whole estate. 

Here it should be observed that one of the chief reasons 
why we get on slowly, and the Lord does not do us more 
favours, is because we do not put in execution the good 
purposes and desires which He gives us ; and so because 
we do not give a good account of what He gives us, He 
does not bestow on us further gifts. A schoolmaster will 
not let a child go on to a higher style of letters or better 
copy until he has formed and copied well what has been 
given him : so the Lord is wont to deal with us in raising 
us to perfection. He is slower to give us greater things, 
the slower we are to put to good use what He has given 
us. And the more a man sets to work to realise and put 
in execution the desires that the Lord gives him in prayer, 
the more is God moved to grant him greater things. 

Father Master Avila well says : "Whoever makes a good 
use of what he knows, will gain light to see what he does 
not know." Any other man cannot have the face to ask 
for that : since it may be well replied to him : ' Why do 
you seek to know My will and good pleasure, when what 
you do know you do not carry out?' If you do not put into 
act the desires which the Lord gives you, how can you 
wish that He should give you greater things ? With what 
face can you ask God in prayer to grant you this or that 
which you desire and find needful, if you have no mind to 
amend or mortify yourself in point of a fault where you 
have great need of amendment, and God has given you 
many desires and inspirations about it? I do not know 
how you can raise up your eyes to beg of God other greater 
things, you who have no purpose of amendment even in 




the matter of an exterior fault that you have, but let your- 
self deliberately fall into it again and again. If then we 
wish to make progress in spirit, and that the Lord should 
do us great favours, let us be diligent in putting into exe- 
cution the inspirations and desires which the Lord gives 

It is the common doctrine of the Saints, that he who 
makes a good use of the benefits he has received renders 
himself worthy of fresh benefits ; and contrariwise, he who 
makes a bad use of them does not deserve to receive-more. 
The Wise Man in Wisdom (ch. xvi.) propounds this ques- 
tion : What is the reason why the manna melted away at 
the first ray of the sun that struck it, and was of no further 
use ; while if they put it in the fire it did not liquefy, nor did 
the fire do it any harm, the heat of the fire being stronger 
than that of the sun ? The same Wise Man answers at the 
end of the same chapter, that it might be known to all that 
we must be beforehand with the sun to bless thee (ver. 28), 
— that all might understand that it behoves us to be dili- 
gent in making our profit of the benefits that the Lord 
gives us, and the blessings that we receive at His hand ; 
and in punishment of the ingratitude and laziness that 
would not get up in the morning before sunrise, to pro- 
fit by the. boon that the Lord had vouchsafed, God per- 
mitted the sun to spoil the provision for the day. This 
is also what Christ our Redeemer marvellously declares 
in the holy Gospel (Luke xix.) in that parable of the noble- 
man, who divided his substance among his servants that 
they might traffic therewith. When after having taken 
possession of his kingdom he asked them for an account, 
he made them governors or commandants of so many 
cities in proportion to the number of talents which each 
one had gained : him who had gained ten talents, he made 
governor of ten cities, and him who had gained five, of 
five, — giving us to understand that as this king rewarded 
the industry and fidelity of his servants with such a step 
upwards as there is from ten talents to ten cities, so also 
if we put into execution the inspirations of God, and are 
loyal and faithful in corresponding with them, very great 
also will be the abundant liberality wherewith the Lord 
will augment His divine gifts ; and contrariwise, if we do 


not correspond as we ought, not only will He deprive us of 
what He has given us, but we shall be further chastised, 
as was that servant who had not profited nor gained any- 
thing with the talent that he had received. 

It is related of that most famous painter Apelles that, 
however numerous his occupations, he never passed a day 
on which he did not practise his art and paint something ; 
and stealing the time from other occupations that offered 
he would say : " To-day I have not drawn a line : hodie 
lineam nullam duxi." From that it became a proverb for 
any work of art, when the day was let slip, without prac- 
tising or doing anything at it. That is how he came to be 
such a perfect and consummate painter. If then you desire 
to be a perfect and consummate Religious, let no day pass 
on which you do not draw some line, and make some mark 
in virtue. Go on overcoming and mortifying yourself 
every day in something, go on banishing every day some 
fault from the actions that you do, for in this way they will 
become daily better and more perfect. And when you 
come to the mid-day examen, see whether you have passed 
that half-day without having drawn any line or marked 
any point in virtue, and say : ' To-day I have not drawn 
a line : oh dear, to-day I have made no step forward in 
virtue, nor mortified myself in anything, nor made so 
much as one act of humility, when I found occasion for 
it. I have spent this day to no purpose. It must not be 
so this evening : it must not be so to-morrow morning. ' 
In this way, little by little, we shall come to advance much. 


That it will be a great aid to the attainment of perfec- 
tion not to commit faults on purpose, and never relax 
in fervour 

It will also aid us much towards growth in virtue and 
perfection to try never to commit faults on purpose. There 
are two sorts of faults and venial sins : the one sort is 
that into which those who fear God fall through frailty, 
ignorance and inadvertence, albeit with some carelessness 
and negligence. As to such faults as these, they who 
serve God and walk in His sight with an upright heart, 
know by experience that they cause no bitterness of heart, 
but rather humility ; nor do they find that on that account 
God turns away His face from them, but rather they ex- 
perience new favour from the Lord and a hew spirit by 
the humble recourse they have to God for them. Other 
faults and defects there are which they fall into with 
advertence and on purpose, who are tepid and remiss in 
the service of God ; and these faults are an obstacle to 
the great blessings we should receive if we did not com- 
mit them. For these faults the Lord will often turn away 
His face from us in prayer, and withdraw many favours. 
Thus if we wish. to thrive and receive many favours of the 
Lord, we must take care not to commit faults on purpose. 
Enough the faults that we commit through our ignorance 
and inadvertence ; let us not add to them more. Enough 
the distractions that we have in prayer through the fickle- 
ness of our imaginations ; let us not distract ourselves 
voluntarily and on purpose. Enough the faults that we 
commit against the Rules through our weakness ; let us not 
break them of set purpose. 

St. Basil lays down another means for gaining perfec- 
tion, and says it is an excellent way to advance much in 
a short time : it is, not to call halts on the road of virtue. 
There are those who make temporary efforts, and then 
stop. Go on as you have begun, and do not call these 
halts. On this road of spiritual life you will find yourself 




TR. 1 

more wearied by making these halts than by not making 
them. In this there is a great difference from bodily 
exercises : the more the body works and labours, the more 
it is worn out; but the more the spirit works, the more 
strength it gathers : caro operando deficit, spiritus oper- 
ando proficit (St. Basil). And says the proverb : " The 
bow that is kept strung breaks, but the soul unstrung 
decays," arcum frangit intensio, anitnam remissio. St. 
Ambrose says that as it is easier not to fall into sin, but 
preserve innocence, than after a fall to do true penance, 
so also it is easier to keep up the fervour of prayer and 
devotion than to return to it after being distracted for 
several days. The blacksmith, who draws the iron red- 
hot from the furnace, in order that it may be soft and ready 
for him to make of it what he wishes with his hammer, 
does not let it go altogether cold, but before it goes cold 
he puts it back in the furnace, so that he may readily 
deal with it as before. So we should never allow the 
heat of our devotion to die down : for once our heart has 
grown cold and callous, it will be hard to go back to our 
first fervour. Thus we see by experience that, however 
much a man may have advanced in virtue, yet if he grows 
careless for a season, in the little time that he surrenders 
to distractions and ceases to continue his pious exercises, 
he loses all that he had gained in a long time, scarce a 
trace is left of what he had before, and it is with difficulty 
that he returns to it. Contrariwise, they who go on with 
fervour and persevere in their pious exercises easily hold 
their own, and in a short time advance much. The reason 
is, because they lose no time, and do not undo what they 
have done, unlike the tepid and slothful, who with their 
frequent halts do and undo, weave and unweave, and never 
finish their web But the fervent, far from undoing, get 
on with their work, and gather new strength daily by 
continual exercise, and new facility to do more and do it 
better ; so they advance much. So says the Wise Man : 
Hands slothful and remiss bring on poverty, but the hands 
of the strong gather riches (Prov. x. 4). He who does 
not choose to work will grow poor, and he that puts his 
strength into his work will grow rich. The soul of them 
that work shall grow fat (Prov. xiii. 4). 

ch. xiii 



A Father of our Society, comparing tepid and slack 
Religious with the diligent and fervent, used to say that 
the tepid and remiss, who, as they grow into seniors 
come to play the part of idlers, and make it not their aim 
to get on With their perfection, are like old servants in the 
houses of our nobility, who render no service in the house, 
but make a show, and sit by the gates of their masters' 
houses telling stories. They are given their keep as old 
servants, but they do not find favour nor advancement with 
the Master ; indeed he scarcely remembers them. You will 
see other young servants, youths so diligent and solicitous 
in the service of their Master that they never think of 
pausing or sitting down all day long. Hardly has their 
Master given them a hint of what he wants than the thing 
is done. These are they that find favour and advance- 
ment. Such are diligent and fervent Religious. 


Of three other means that will enable us to advance in 


A very good means to advance much is given by St. 
Basil and by the Saints generally. It is, that we should 
fix our eyes on the best members of the community, those 
whose virtue shines forth more conspicuously, and set 
about imitating them. The same counsel was given by 
the blessed Abbot St. Antony : he said that the Religious 
should go about like the busy bee, gathering from all 
flowers to make his honey .,■ — modesty from one, silence 
from another, patience from a third, from another obedi- 
ence, from another indifference and resignation : in each 
one we should study that in which he shines most to 
imitate him. So we read that he did, and thereby he be- 
came such a great Saint. This is one of the chief blessings 
that we enjoy in Religion, and therefore St. Jerome recom- 
mended community life rather than solitude, to the end 
that from one member you may learn humility, from 
another patience'; this one will teach you to keep silence, 


that other meekness. A philosopher named Chaerilas, 
a leading man of much distinction among the Lacede- 
monians, being asked what commonwealth he took to be 
the best in the world, said : " That wherein the citizens 
live together without any quarrels or seditions, and vie 
with one another who shall be most virtuous." This 
boon, among others, our Lord has given us in Religion. 
May it please His Divine Majesty that it may always be 
so ! There in the world, in almost all States, all men's 
contentions and rivalries turn on property and points 
of honour, scarcely will you find a man who has any emu- 
lation for virtue ; but here, by the bounty and mercy of 
God, all the study of Religious is in what touches on the 
renunciation of self, and how to grow more in virtue and 
perfection, and all their contentions and rivalries are on 
being every one of them more virtuous, more humble and 
obedient, and this without noise, without divisions, with- 
out detractions, but with a holy emulation and envy. It is 
no small favour and benefit, but a very great one, that the 
Lord has drawn us to Religion, where virtue is favoured 
and esteemed, where the professor or the preacher is 
not made more of for being a great professor, or a great 
preacher, but for being more humble and mortified, where 
the aim of all is to advance in virtue, and all by their 
example animate us to make progress. Let us then profit 
by so good an opening for practising this means. 

Hence we can derive the second motive, which is the 
obligation we are under of giving good example to our 
brethren; " that considering one another all may grow in 
devotion and praise of God our Lord," as our Holy 
Father says. Or rather Christ Himself says so in the Gos- 
pel : Let your light so shine before men, that they may see 
your good works, and glorify your Father, who is in 
heaven (Matt. v. 16). Everyone well knows what force 
good example has to move others. A good Religious in 
a house does more by his good example than any number 
of conferences and sermons can do, for men are more apt 
to believe what they see with their eyes than what they 
hear with their ears. They are persuaded that the thing 
is practicable which they see another put into act, and 
thereby are mightily moved and animated to do the like. 

ch. xiii 



This is that flapping of the wings of those holy living 
creatures which Ezechiel beheld (Ezech. iii. 13) ; when by 
your example you touch the heart of your brother, and 
move him to compunction and devotion and desire of per- 

St. Bernard avers that, at his entry into Religion, the 
very sight of some spiritual and edifying Religious, — nay, 
even the very remembrance of them when they were absent 
or dead, — brought him so great joy and comfort, and filled 
his soul with such sweetness and devotion that often- 
times tears of joy came into his eyes. So says Holy 
Scripture in praise of King Josiah : The memory of Josiah 
is as a box of sweet perfumes (Ecclus. xlix. 1), comforting 
and- strengthening and raising up the disheartened. Such 
we ought to endeavour to become, according to the words 
of the Apostle : We are the good odour of Christ (2 Cor. ii. 
15). We should be like a box of perfumes that freely com- 
municates its sweetness, and comforts and animates all 
that come near. This should be a great motive to us to 
give ourselves earnestly to virtue, and avoid giving any 
occasion of disedification to our brethren. For as an ex- 
emplary Religious is a great help, and enough to edify 
and raise the tone of a whole house, so a Religious who is 
not what he should be does a deal of harm, harm enough 
to disedify a whole community and draw them his way, 
the more so as example is more powerful for evil than for 
good, owing to our evil inclination to the one rather than 
to the other. 

Almighty God commanded in Deuteronomy that when 
the people of Israel were ready to join battle with their 
enemies, the captains should cause it to be proclaimed 
throughout the whole army : Let the cowardly and faint- 
hearted return home. And let the reason assigned be noted, 
as it makes for our purpose : lest they make cowards of 
the rest, and infect them with their fear (Deut. xx. 9). 
That is what a tepid and lax Religious does in Religion 
by his bad example : he makes cowards of the rest, where 
there is question of making an effort and embracing things 
of perfection : sloth and tepidity are catching. That is 
how St. Eusebius of Emesa comes to say : " Those who 
have made up their minds to live in community are either 



diligent to the great profit of the community, or negligent 
to the great injury and peril of the same." 

We may add a third means and motive to those we have 
already mentioned : it is the obligation we have of giving 
good example, not only to our brethren with whom we 
daily converse, but also to all the world, lest the whole 
Order come to lose its good reputation, by reason of the 
scandal given by some particular member : for men of the 
world often judge of all Religious by the behaviour of one, 
as if his fault were a sort of original sin, a taint of 
nature in them all, or were a sample of goods held in 
common stock. Thus people at once say : ' Those of the 
Society also break rules, or do this or that,' for one only 
whom they see breaking the Rule and taking some liberty. 
Therefore every one is bound to have an eye to edification, 
that by this means the reputation of the whole Order may 
be preserved and increased. This obligation is more 
urgent upon us, because we are still at our commence- 
ments, and all eyes are turned to us. We are made a 
spectacle to the world, to angels and to men (i Cor. iv. 9), 
and although they have no reason to impute the fault of 
one man to a whole Order, yet, after all, it is certain that 
the whole body consists of individuals, and consequently 
the growth or decay of that body depends upon the good 
or ill conduct of each individual. Let everyone therefore 
stand firm in his post like a good soldier. Let him take 
care lest a battalion, so strong and well formed, come to 
be broken through his fault : let not relaxation enter into 
the Order through you. 

It will be a good reflection for everyone to make account 
that Religion, his Mother, says to him those words in 
which the mother of the Maccabees spoke to her youngest 
son, encouraging him to suffer and to die for the observ- 
ance of the Law : My son, have pity on me, -who bore thee 
nine months in my womb, gave thee milk for three years, 
reared and bred thee to thy present age (2 Mace. vii. 27). 
' My son, I have borne you, not nine months, but nine 
years, and twenty years, and thirty years and more : I 
have given you milk for three years of probation, and 
reared you in virtue and letters at so much cost to myself, 
till I set you in this state in which you now are. What 

CH. xiv 



I ask you in return for all this is to have compassion on 
me : let me not lose my honour in you, nor bring sorrow 
in my old age. Turn not against me, nor against yourself, 
the arms wherewith I have armed you for your own good 
and profit and that of your neighbour : let not what should 
have been an occasion and means of your being more 
thankful and more humble and mortified become an occa- 
sion of your being more vain, unrestrained and un- 


That it will help us much always to behave as we did 
the first day we entered Religion 

One of those ancient monks once asked Abbot Agatho, 
how he should behave in Religion. He answered : " See 
what you were the first day you left the world and were 
received into the cloister, and such remain always. " If then 
you desire to know how to be a good Religious, and how 
to advance much in virtue and perfection, this is a good 
means. Consider with what fervour and fortitude you 
left the world and all that you had in it, kindred, friends 
and acquaintance, property, riches, comforts and amuse- 
ments, and persevere in that contempt of the world, and 
that forgetfulness of parents and relations, and that cast- 
ing off of comforts and conveniences ; and in that manner 
you will be a good Religious. Consider also with what 
humility you asked to be received into Religion and with 
what entreaty; and how, the day they granted your re- 
quest, you thought that heaven was opened to you, and 
you felt a deep sense of gratitude to God and to your 
Order for so great a boon and benefit ; and go on now with 
this gratitude and humble acknowledgment. Feel now 
as much obliged and as much indebted as on the first day 
they received you ; and in this manner you will advance 
in Religion. Consider also, after your reception, with 
what devotion and modesty you behaved at the commencer 
ment, with what obedience, with what humility, with what 
promptitude, with what indifference and resignation in 
all things, and persevere always therein, and iii this way 


you will go on thriving and growing in virtue and per- 

This means is much commended by the Saints, as we 
shall presently see; but it is necessary to understand it 
well. We do not mean to say that you ought not now 
to have more virtue than on the first day you entered 
Religion. The veteran should never be content with the 
virtue of a novice, because it is clear that the veteran 
should have more virtue and be more advanced than the 
novice who began yesterday ; as in study he who has been 
at his studies ten years ought to be more advanced and 
know more than the beginner, Religion is a school of 
virtue and perfection, and so he who has gone further 
in the school ought to have learnt and advanced more. 
But just as, speaking to one who began to study with 
much fervour and great energy, and afterwards has grown 
lazy and slack, we tell him to return to his first fervour 
and to the care and diligence with which he started at the 
beginning, and that in this way he will get on with his 
studies, so what we say now is that you should return to 
those first fervours with which you started on the way of 
virtue the very first day that you entered Religion. See 
with what courage and spirit you began then to serve 
God, so that no obstacle could stand in your way, and you 
made no difficulty about anything, and go on now with 
that fervour, and with that same iron determination and 
strong resolution, and in this manner you will make great 
progress in Religious life. That is what the Saints mean 
to say of this method. 

The blessed Saint Antony, when his disciples asked him 
to give them some spiritual advice for their improvement, 
began his discourse with this, as St. Athanasius relates 
in his Life : ' ' Let this be the first thing of all that I charge 
you, that none should begin to abate the fervour with 
which he undertook the journey, but as if starting afresh 
let every one ceaselessly increase what he has begun." 
And besides many other repetitions of the same, when he 
was near death, by way of last will and testament, to 
impress it more on their hearts, he inculcated it once more 
in these moving words, as the last words of a father : " I 
my sons, in Scripture language, am going the way of our 


fathers, since now the Lord calls me, and I desire to see 
Him in heaven ; but you, sons of my heart, I exhort not to 
lose in a moment the labour of so many years ; consider 
that this day you are starting Religious life, and go on 
ever increasing in the firmness of this resolution." If 
you desire to progress in virtue and perfection, put this 
before your eyes every day ; and make account that every 
day you are starting afresh and ever behave as though 
this was the first day that you had begun, and in this way 
you will be good Religious. St. Augustine also puts this 
means : " Forget entirely everything that you have done 
up to this, and make account that every day you are start- 
ing anew." 

St. Antony used to explain this by a household example. 
As the servants and domestics of noblemen, however much 
they have served their masters, and however much they 
have worked, fail not to put their hands to any new busi- 
nes's that offers, and stand ever as ready and prepared to 
do what they are bidden as they were the first day they 
entered service, as though they had done no service or 
work up to now, so he said we ought to serve God bur 
Creator and Lord. We have a good example of this in 
the glorious St. Bernard. Surius relates in his Life that 
he reckoned others for Saints and perfect men, and 
thought that as being advanced and far ahead in 
perfection they might be allowed sundry indulgences and 
licenses in sundry things. This is an excellent way not 
to make rash judgments of others, when we see them 
doing anything of that sort. But for himself, he said 
that he always held himself for a beginner and novice, 
and that these licenses and exemptions did not befit him, 
and so he missed no point of the rigour of Religious life, 
nor of the common labours and exercises of humility. He 
was the first in all works of obedience, and the first to 
put his hand to the broom and the dish-clout. In no point 
did he seek exemption or excuse from doing as others ; but 
when others were doing any manual work, and he did not 
know how to do it, then, not to lose the occasion, he man- 
aged to do something else instead, and busied himself in 
some still more humble and lowly occupation. Sometimes 
he would take a pick-axe and set himself to turn up the 



ground, or a hatchet, and would cut wood and carry the 
pieces on his back to the kitchen ; and he greatly rejoiced 
to occupy himself in such exercises, and thought that he 
had need of all this for his improvement ! He was not 
like some who, when they do these things, say : ' Just for 
example sake ' : because they think that they do not 
need them, nor that this does any good in their case. It 
is well that you do it for the sake of example and edifi- 
cation, but it would be better for you to consider that you 
also have need of it, since St. Bernard thought that he had 
such need. 

St. Antony here adds another good point, that further 
explains what has gone before. The Saint is not content 
with our not going back upon those first fervours with 
which we commenced, but wishes us always to be going 
on and advancing and growing more and more. As one 
beginning anew to serve God making it his care every 
day to advance and grow in that service, seeing that 
hitherto all has been offences and sins, thereby to make 
up for the past and render himself worthy of the reward 
and prize ; so we ought always to carry on like one who 
has attained nothing up to this, but has been a spendthrift 
and a squanderer. 

This means, says St. Gregory, is suitable to all, even 
though they be very perfect : for the prophet David was 
a perfect man, and yet he said, like a beginner, To-day 
I have begun (Ps. 76). He went on with as much fervour 
and diligence in the service of the Lord in extreme old 
age, as though he would then begin anew to serve Him, 
according to the saying of the Wise Man : When a man 
shall have finished, then he shall begin (Ecclus. xviii. 6). 
The true servants of God, the further they go, and the 
nearer they approach to the goal and to perfection, make 
their way with greater care and fervour, like men digging 
out a treasure, as Job says (iii. 21). As those who are 
seeking a treasure by digging, says St. Gregory, the more 
they dig and the deeper they go, give themselves to the 
work with greater diligence ; because, understanding that 
the hidden treasure they seek is getting nearer, and that 
they want but a little to strike upon it, they are thereby 
animated to labour more vigorously, and dig with-greater 




zest and eagerness ; so those who are really working at 
their own improvement and perfection, the further they 
go oil, and the nearer they come to the end, throw them- 
selves into the work with greater energy. ' Oh, since the 
treasure is now near, let us animate ourselves and make an 
effort, since now little is wanting to reach it.' And that 
the more, as you see the day coming nigh, as the Apostle 
says (Heb. x. 25) ; meaning, as St. Gregory says, that we 
should work harder, the nearer the reward and the prize. 
When a stone is moving in a downward direction, the 
nearer it approaches its centre, the greater becomes its 
velocity and speed till it arrives ; so when a man goes on 
advancing in virtue and perfection, and is getting nearer 
and nearer to God, who is his centre and last end, the more 
energy he puts forth finally to arrive. These, St. Basil 
says, are they whom St. Paul calls in carefulness not sloth- 
ful, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord (Rom. xii. 11). 
There are some who in their commencements, when they 
enter Religion, start with fervour, and on leaving the 
novitiate at once slacken off and play the ancient : these 
are not fervent in spirit, but tepid and lazy. The fervent 
in spirit are they who go on ever as on the first day, with 
an ardent desire and an insatiable hunger, never glutted 
nor weary with the service of God, but ever desirous of 
Serving Him more and more, according to the word of 
the Prophet, In thy commandments he shall delight ex- 
ceedingly (Ps. in). 


Thai it will be a great help for everyone to ask himself 
frequently, ' What did you enter Religion for?' 

Another practice also will help us very much to grow 
in virtue and attain perfection : it is that which St. Bernard 
used, as Surius relates in his Life. He carried it ever in 
his head and often spoke to himself saying: ' Bernard, 
Bernard, for what hast thou come into Religion?' Ber- 
"narde, ad quid venisti? We read the same of the holy 
Abbot Arsenius, who often asked himself the same ques- 
tion : ' Arsenius, Arsenius, for what hast thou come?' 


He often took account of himself. ' Arsenius, why hast 
thou left the world? What was thy end and intention in 
leaving it and betaking thyself to Religion? Was it n ot 
that therein thou mightest succeed in pleasing God en - 
tirely, and not t rouble thyself about pleasing and satisfying 
men, nor about standing high in their esteem? Take 
care of th is then , and m ake no acco unt of the opinion and 
esteem of men. That would be going back to the world 
which thou hast left. Do not return to it in heart : little 
will it avail thee to be here in Religion in body, if in heart 
thou art in the world, desiring the applause and esteem of 
men.' With these thoughts those Saints aroused and 
animated themselves greatly. We too should arouse and 
animate ourselves with the same, to go forward and over- 
come all difficulties that we meet with in Religion. When 
y_ou_feel diffi culty in any o r der of obedience, arouse you r- 
self with these words : ' For what purpose have you come 
into Religion? Was it perchance to do your own will? 
Certainly not, but to follow the will of another. Why 
then do you wish to do your own?' When. you feel any 
e ffect of povert y, you should animate yourself with this : 
' Did you perchance come here to seek your own conveni- 
ences, to have everything completely to your satisfaction, 
and to want nothing ? Know you not that you have come 
to be poor, and to suffer need like a real poor man ? What 
have you to complain of then?' When you t hink th at 
people d o not make enough of yo u, animate and console 
yourself with this reflection : ' Did you perchance come 
to Religion to be regarded and esteemed? Certainly not, 
but to be forgotten of men, and to despise the opinion 
and esteem of the world. Why do you refuse what you 
have come for, and seek to return to what you have left?' 
This it is to be a Religious ,— not to do yo ur own will, to 
be poor, to suffer need, to seek t o be forgotten and disre - 
garded. This it is to be dead to the world and live to 

For this we come into Religion, and little will it profit 
us to be therein, if we do not that for which we came : for 
it is not the place that makes Saints, but a religious, an d 
perfect life. St. Augustine says this very well in a sermon 
that he gave to the Religious who dwelt in the desert : 




" You see, brethren, here we are in solitude, we have left 
the world and are in Religion. But it is not the place that 
makes holy the inhabitants, but good works : it is a reli- 
gious life that will make the place holy and us also. Alas, 
holy as the place may be, and however strict the enclosure 
of Religion, still you may sin there, and there incur dam- 
nation. Trust not in that," says St. Augustine, " since 
the angel sinned in heaven, and Adam in paradise, and 
there was no place holier than those. The place does not 
make people holy : if the place were sufficient for that, 
neither the angel would have fallen from heaven, nor man 
from paradise." So do not think that you have done your 
business and are master of the field, when you can say : 
' I am a Religious, I am a member of the Society !' That 
is not enough, unless you do that for which you came to 
Religion. See that you did not come to be a good student, ' 
or a learned graduate, or a good preacher, but to be a' 
good Religious and- aim at perfection. Oh, how very w 
little it matters whether you turn out more or less of a 
scholar, or whether you turn out a great or a middling 
preacher! What does matter, what makes all the differ- 
ence, is that you turn out a good and perfect Religious. 
What are we doing, if we are not doing that? And 
what have we been doing all this while, if we have not 
done that? To what' have we applied our minds, 
if we have not applied them to that for which we came 
hither? My friend, my brother, whereunto art thou come? 
Amice, ad quid venisti? (Matt. xxvi. 50). 

Take account of yourself, and often ask yourself this 
question ; Ah my God, what art or trade might I not have 
learnt all these years I have been in the Society, and come 
out well in it by this time? If I had set myself to become 
a painter, I should, by this time, have painted well : if to 
be an embroiderer, I should know how to use my needle so 
cleverly as to gain my livelihood thereby. I have set my j 
self to be a good Religious, and have not succeeded at that. 
So many years I have been going to the school of virtue, 
and I have not yet learnt the A, B, C, of it. I have not 
yet attained the first degree of humility. Others become 
good philosophers and good theologians in seven years' 
time ; and I, after so many years, have not become a good 



Religious. Oh, if we sought and aimed at true virtues 
with as much care and diligence as we aim at learning ! 

St. Bernard says : ' ' Many look to science, but few to 
conscience. If a good conscience were looked to with as 
much zeal and solicitude as vain and secular science is 
sought, it would be at once more speedily attained and 
more usefully retained." Multi quaerunt scientiam, pauci 
vero conscientiam. Si vero tanto studio et solicitudine 
quaereretur conscientia quanto quaeritur saecularis et vana 
scientia, et citius apprehenderetur et utilius retineretur. 

It were only fair that we should take as much care and 
pains over our spiritual progress as we do over our studies. 

St. Dorotheus says that he found this consideration a 
great help. " When I was a student in the world, I took 
my studies so much to heart that I remembered and 
thought of nothing else, not even of my dinner, and it 
seemed I had no time to think of what I had to eat, so 
much so that had it not been for my companion and very 
dear friend who took care to provide me with something to 
eat, and to call me at dinner time, often I would 
have forgotten to eat. The vehement desire that I had to 
learn went so far that, when I was at table, I had my book 
always open before me, that I might eat and study at the 
same time; and at night, when I came from school, I at 
once lit my candle and studied till midnight ; and when I 
lay down to sleep, I took my book to bed, and after I had 
slept awhile, I fell to reading again, and was so wholly 
taken up with this passion for study that I could take 
no delight in anything else. Since I came to be a Reli- 
gious, I have often reflected and said to myself : If thou 
didst work so hard, so fervently and ardently, to acquire 
eloquence and human learning, how much more in all con- 
science oughtest thou to do here in Religion to acquire true 
virtues and true wisdom, seeing that thou art come here 
for no other purpose? And from this thought I gathered 
no little strength." 

Let us then rouse and animate ourselves also with this 
consideration, that it is of greate r concern for us to be 
good R eligious than to be good stud ents and good me n 
of letters. All our solicitude and diligence ought to be 
how to attain to this divine wisdom : that should be our 




whole business. The Son of God had no other business on 
earth but to occupy Himself in loving us and seeking 
our advancement and greater good, and that at so much 
cost to Himself. And shall we think it much for us to have 
no other business here but to occupy ourselves in loving 
and pleasing God, and seeking and procuring His greater 
glory ? Wherefore lift up your hands that hang down as 
if tired, and brace up your loose knees (Heb. xii. 12). 
Abandoning tepidity and sloth, let us put trifles aside and 
quicken our pace. Let us make haste to enter into that 
rest (Heb. iv. 11). Let us push on and cover the ground 
to climb the mountain of perfection and glory even to 
the mountain of God, Horeb (3 Kings xix. 8). And as a 
traveller that has slept till late in the morning makes haste 
to repair the time he has lost by mending his pace till he 
overtake his company, that has gone ahead ; so should 
we make haste, and never stop in our course till we have 
recovered the time we have lost by our negligence. Oh, 
how my companions and brothers have gone ahead, and 
I alone am left behind, notwithstanding that I began my 
journey first, and entered into Religion before them. Oh, 
that we regretted so much the time we have lost hitherto, 
and felt it so much, that it might serve us as a spur to 
run henceforth with great ardour ! 

Denis the Carthusian relates an incident taken from 
the Lives of the Ancient Fathers. There was a youth who 
wanted to enter Religion, but his mother endeavoured to 
thwart his good purpose, and brought up many reasons, 
to all of which the young man simply answered : ' ' I want 
to save my soul." Salvare volo animam meam. At last, 
as she could do nothing with him, she let him go, and he 
entered Religion. But after a while his fervour cooled 
down, and he began to live very carelessly. Then it came 
to pass that his mother died, and he fell dangerously ill. 
In a trance, he was carried before the judgment seat of 
God, and saw his mother, with many others, expecting 
sentence of condemnation. His mother, turning her eyes, 
saw her son in the ranks of those who were to be con- 
demned, and in amazement cried out: ■' Son, hast thou 
come to this ? What has become of those words : ' I want 
to save my soul '? " He felt so ashamed that he did 


not know what to answer. He came out of the trance, 
and it pleased God that he should get better. He took 
the vision as a warning from God, and changed so much 
that he was wholly given over to bewailing the past and 
doing penance. Many people endeavoured to persuade 
him to moderate and abate some part of his austerities, 
lest he should destroy his health by them, but he rejected 
all their advice, saying: " If I could not suffer the re- 
proaches of my mother, how shall I suffer those of Christ 
and His holy angels on the day of judgment?" 


Of some other things that will help us to go on in self- 
improvement and gain perfection 

Be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matt, 
v. 48), says Christ our Redeemer in that sovereign Sermon 
on the Mount. St. Cyprian on these words says : " If to 
men it is matter of exultation and glory to have sons like 
themselves, and then they rejoice more and are more glad 
at having become fathers, when they see that in features, 
air and demeanour and in all things their children are in 
the likeness of their parents, how much more will our 
heavenly Father be glad and rejoice when He sees that 
His spiritual sons are coming out like Himself ! What 
a palm of victory, what a reward, what a crown, what a 
glory, think you, will it be that you should be such that 
God may not have to complain of you : / have begotten 
sons, and reared them and exalted them, and they have 
dishonoured me (Isai. i. 2)," — but that you should be such 
that your works may redound to the great glory and 
honour of your heavenly Father ! This is the great glory 
of God, to have sons so like Him, that through them He 
comes to be known, honoured and glorified. 

But how shall we be like our heavenly Father? St. 
Augustine tells us : we shall be like God in proportion as 
we partake of His justice and holiness : the more just 
and perfect we are, the more we shall resemble our 
heavenly Father. Therefore does the Lord so much desire 

ch. xvi 



us to be holy and perfect, and reminds us of it and repeats 
it frequently,— sometimes by St. Paul, this is the will of 
God, your sanctification (i Thess. iv. 3) ; sometimes by St. 
Matthew, be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect 
(Matt. v. 48) ; at other times by the Apostle St. Peter, be 
ye holy, because I the Lord your God am holy (r Pet. i. 16 : 
Levit. xi. 44). This is the will of our heavenly Father. 
It is a great satisfaction to parents to haye good, wise 
and holy children. A wise son, says Solomon, is the joy 
of his father; and contrariwise, a foolish and worthless 
son is his mother's sorrow and grief (Prov. x. 1). For this 
reason, if there were no other, we should endeavour to give 
ourselves to virtue and perfection, to give satisfaction to 
God. This should ever be the principal motive of all our 
actions, the satisfaction of God and His greater honour 
and glory. 

Besides this, we will mention sundry other motives to 
aid and animate us thereto. St. Augustine says that the 
reason why Holy Scripture calls us so many times sons 
of God,— I will be your Father, and ye shall be my sons ; 
and the Apostle St. Paul, Be ye imitators of God, 
as most dear sons (Eph. v. 1) ; and , the Apostle 
and Evangelist St. John : See what great love the 
Father hath for us, granting us to be called and to be 
sons of God (1 John iii. 1), and in many other places,- — 
the reason he says of this frequent repetition is to induce 
us, seeing and considering our dignity and excellence, to 
value ourselves and watch over ourselves with greater 
care and diligence. A rich dress is kept with much solici- 
tude, and great care is taken that no stain fall upon it. 
A precious stone and other rich articles are kept with 
greater care. We should keep with great care what we 
have received, and call ourselves to great account for it. 
That is why, as St. Augustine says, Holy Scripture so 
often puts before us the fact that we are sons of God, 
and that God Himself is our F at her, to the end that we 
may behave as His sons whose sons we are, and not fall 
away or degenerate from the high and generous thoughts 
of sons of God. 

Pope St. Leo agrees, saying : Recognise your dignity, 
remember that you are a son of God, and do nothing un- 

7 o 


TR. 1 

worthy of the nobility and high birth of such a son : divinae 
consors factus naturae noli in veterem vilitatem degeneri 
conversatione redire: memento cujus capitis et cujus cor- 
poris sis membrum. St. Paul in the Acts of the Apostles 
sets this before the Athenians to animate and raise them 
to higher things : for we are of divine lineage, being of 
divine lineage, etc. (Acts. xvii. 28). To apply that to 
ourselves, and keep up the example which St. Augustine 
gives of the dress : as any stain looks very ugly on a rich 
dress ; and the richer the stuff, the more unsightly does 
it appear : on brocade or gold lace a stain is a great dis- 
figurement, but on sackcloth it is not seen, and no account 
is taken of it ; so in them who live there in the world 
the stain of a venial sin is not noticed, and oftentimes even 
of a mortal sin, and no account is taken of it, sad to say ; 
but in Religious, who are the cherished and petted sons of 
God, any stain and any imperfection is conspicuous and 
strikes the eye, — a want of modesty, a little tale-bearing, 
an impatient and angry word, gives great offence and 
disedification here, whereas among men of the world it is 
taken no notice of. Dust on the feet is of no consideration, 
but on the eyes and in the pupils of the eyes it is a consider- 
able matter, and very much so. Worldly people are as the 
feet of this body of the Church ; Religious are as the eyes 
and pupils of the eyes; thus any fault in a Religious is 
very considerable, because it takes off the gilding and 
looks very ugly in him, and therefore he is bound very 
carefully to guard against anything of the sort. 

Another helpful means of self-improvement we have 
touched on above : it is to understand that we have still a 
long way to go, and that what we hold and have gained 
hitherto is as nothing. This means also is suggested to 
us by the text quoted before. Why, think you, does 
Christ our Redeemer say : Be ye perfect as your heavenly 
Father is perfect? (Matt. v. 48). Can we possibly attain to 
the perfection of our heavenly Father? Can man possibly 
appear just in comparison with God? (Job iv. 17). No 
certainly, not by thousands of miles : however much we 
advance, there will always be an infinite distance between 
us and Him. Yet He tells us to be perfect as our Heavenly 
Father is perfect, to give us to understand that on this 

CH. xvi 


road of virtue we must ever be moving on, and never be 
content with what we have got, but labour for what is still 
wanting. Saints commonly say, and very rightly, that 
there is no surer sign of a man being far from perfection 
than his thinking that he has already attained it : for on 
this marvellous road, the further a man journeys, the more 
ground he sees still before him to cover, and how much is 
wanting to him. 

St. Bonaventure says that as the higher a man climbs 

a mountain, the more ground he sees, so the nearer a man 
approaches the summit of this mountain of perfection, the 
more it opens out upon him for further exertion. It is a 
common experience, in looking at a high mountain from 
afar, to fancy that it reaches the sky, and that from thence 
we could touch the sky with our hand ; but as we go on 
with our journey and reach the top, we find that the sky is 
much higher than that. So on this road of perfection and 
knowledge and love of God, man shall ascend to a high 
heart, and God shall be exalted still higher (Ps. 63). So 
St. Cyprian explains this passage, that the higher we 
mount in the knowledge of God, the higher God remains. 
However much you know of God, there is much more to 
know; and however much you love Him there is much 
more to love. There is always room to mount on this road 
of perfection; and if any one thinks that he has reached 
and gained perfection, it is because he is far off, and so 
fancies that he could touch the sky with his hand. 

This may be also understood from what we see in 
earthly sciences. The more a man knows, the better he 
appreciates the shortcomings of his knowledge. And so 
that philosopher said : " The only thing that I know is 
that I know nothing." And a great musician used to say 
sadly that he knew nothing, because he seemed to, himself 
to descry such vast fields of knowledge as he could never 
attain or understand. So is this knowledge of God. The 
servants of God, who have studied and made much pro- 
gress therein, know well how much is wanting to them 
for the attainment of perfection. And this is the reason 
why the further a man advances, the humbler he is, partly 
because as one grows in other virtues, one grows also in 
humility and self-knowledge and self-contempt, all these 

7 2 


TR. 1 

things going together ; and again, because the more light 
and appreciation a man has of the goodness and majesty 
of God, the deeper becomes his knowledge of his own 
misery and nothingness. Abyss cries to abyss (Ps. 41), 
the great abyss of the knowledge of God, and of His good- 
ness and infinite majesty, discovers to us the depths of our 
own misery ; and by the beams of this divine light we come 
to see the specks and motes of our imperfections, and how 
much we still want of being perfect. The novice and the 
beginner sometimes fancies that he has now got virtue : 
that is because he does not know how much he is wanting 
in it. A man that has little or no skill in painting, when 
he sees a picture, admires it at once, and discovers no 
fault : a good painter comes along, looks at it attentively, 
and discovers many faults. The same befalls here : you are 
not master of the art of self-knowledge, and therefore fail 
to see the faults there are in this picture of your soul ; 
whereas another, who is better skilled in that art, sees 
them very well. Let all this serve to inflame us with a 
desire of acquiring that virtue we still want, for blessed 
are those who hunger and thirst after justice (Matt. v. 6), 
that is to say, as St. Jerome explains it, they who, how- 
ever just they are, are never satisfied, and never think their 
present estate enough, but hunger continually after more 
virtue and perfection, as did the prophet David, when 
he said and begged of God, Lord wash me yet more and 
more from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. I am 
not content with being cleansed and washed of my sins : I 
am not content with being white, but I would fain that 
Thou wouldst make me white as snow, and whiter even 
than snow. Thou shalt sprinkle with hyssop, and I shall 
be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made 
whiter than snow (Ps. 50) : do Thou not merely sprinkle 
me on the surface, but wash me right well. Thus we 
should cry and raise our voices to God : ' Lord, give me 
more humility, more patience, more charity, more mortifi- 
cation, more indifference and resignation. ' Wash me yet 


Of the perseverance we ought to have in virtue, and 
what will aid us thereto 

St. Augustine, on the words of St. Paul : No one is 
crowned, but he who lawfully fighteth (2 Tim. ii. 5), says 
that to fight lawfully is to fight with perseverance to the 
end, and that he it is who deserves to be crowned who 
does this. St. Jerome also says: " Many enter on the 
way of virtue and perfection, but few persevere in it to 
the end, coepisse multorum est, ad culmen pervenisse 
pancorum. We see what happened to the children of 
Israel : there went out of Egypt, says Holy Writ 
(Num. i. 46 : xiv. 30), six hundred thousand men, besides 
women and children, and of all that number two only en- 
tered the Land of Promise. Thus it is no great thing to 
begin well, the difficulty is not there, but in persevering 
and ending well. St. Ephrem says that as when you build a 
house, the difficulty is not in laying the foundation, but in 
raising the building to its perfect height ; and the higher 
the building is raised, the more the labour and expenses 
increase : so in the spiritual building-, the hardest task is 
not to lay the foundation, but to carry your work on to per- 
fection ; it will avail us nothing to have begun well, unless 
we also end well. " In Christians," says St. Jerome, " we 
consider not how they begin, but how they end. St. Paul 
began ill, but ended well : Judas began well, but ended 
ill." What did it avail him to have been an Apostle of 
Christ, and to have worked miracles? What will your 
good beginnings profit you, if you come to a bad end? , It 
is to perseverance alone that the crown is promised. He 
who shall persevere to the end, he shall be saved (Matt, 
xxiv. 13). Jacob saw Almighty God not at the foot, nor 
in the middle, but at the top of the ladder : to let us know, 
says St. Jerome, that " it is not enough to begin well, nor 
yet to go on doing well only for a time, unless we hold on 
and persevere to the end." St. Bernard says : " Put the 
term of your journey and perseverance where Christ put it, 




of whom St. Paul says he was obedient unto death (Phil, 
ii. 8) ; because however far you run, if it be not unto death, 
you will not gain the crown." 

Christ our Redeemer gives us a special warning of this 
in the holy Gospel : whosoever setteth his hand to the 
plough, and looketh back, is not fit for the kingdom of 
heaven (Luke ix. 62). As also when at another time He 
bids us remember Lot's wife (Luke xvii. 32). What was 
it she did? God having brought her out of Sodom in 
order to save her from the fire that consumed the city, she 
stopped upon the way, and turned to look behind her, and 
immediately, in the very place where she turned her head, 
she was changed into a statue of salt. What does that 
signify? Do you know what? St. Augustine says: 
' ' Salt seasons and preserves things ; and therefore our 
Saviour would have us remember Lot's wife to the end 
that, looking upon what happened to her, we may pre- 
serve ourselves with that salt, and take warning therefrom 
to persevere in the way of goodness that we have entered 
upon, and not turn back, for fear lest we also be turned 
into statues of salt, from whence others may take salt for 
their preservation and perseverance, seeing our fall. How 
many do we see nowadays who serve us only for statues of 
salt, for our preservation ! Let us then be wise at other 
men's cost, and do nothing to make other men wise at 

St. Augustine and St. Jerome further add that to begin 
well and end ill is to make monsters : those works and 
actions which begin by being good according to reason, 
and end in evil and sensuality, are grotesque figures, 
as if a painter to the head of a man should add the neck 
of a horse : such a thing it is to begin well and end 
badly. With this St. Paul reproaches the people of 
Galatia who had gone back : Are ye so senseless that, 
having begun in the spirit, ye are ending in the flesh? Who 
hath bewitched you? (Gal. iii. 3). 

That we should be able to persevere and obtain this 
reward from the Lord, it is necessary to take care to estab- 
lish ourselves well in virtue and mortification, lest for want 
of solid foundation we come to deteriorate and fall. Worm- 
eaten apples quickly fall and never ripen, but the good 

ch. xvii 



and sound ones remain on the tree until they come to 
maturity. In the same manner, if your virtue be not solid, 
and your heart be vain, if there be within it some little 
worm of presumption, or pride, or impatience, or other 
irregular passion, that worm will by degrees gnaw away 
and consume all the pith of it, and weaken the substance 
and vigour of your virtue, and endanger your persever- 
ance. The Apostle says : It is very important to confirm 
and fortify your heart by grace (Heb. xiii. 9) with true 
and solid virtues. 

Albertus Magnus well explains how we should be well 
grounded in virtues so as to be able to continue and per- 
severe in them. He says that a true servant of God ought 
to be so grounded in virtue, and have it so deep fixed in 
his heart, as to have it always in his power to practise it, 
and not depend upon what others may do and say. There 
are a sort of people that seem to be humble and very peace- 
able, so long as nothing thwarts them and all things 
happen to their liking ; but upon the least cross accident 
that occurs, this peace vanishes, and they come out in 
their true colours and show what they are. In this case, 
says Albertus, this virtue of peace and humility is not in 
them, but in the people about them. It is the virtue of 
others, and not yours, because they take it away and 
make you a present of it, when they please. This is being 
good by the virtue of another, as people in the world say 
when they are praised : " So it shall be by your favour, 
sir." And they say true. [Eso sera por virtud de vuesa 
merced, i.e., ' my merits are your kindness,' i.e., ' it is 
very kind of you to make me out so.'] You ought to be 
good, not by another's virtue, but by your own virtue, the 
virtue that is in yourself and does not depend on others. 
These people are well compared to still cesspools : if you 
let them alone, they emit no bad smell : but if you stir 
them up, they are unendurable. Thus these people, so 
long as you do not touch them but let them go on according 
to the taste of their own palate, seem clear water ; but 
stir them up a little, and you will see what an odour they 
send forth. Touch the mountains, and they -will smoke 
(Ps. 143). 


Of another means to advance in virtue, namely, spiri- 
tual exhortations and conferences, and how to profit 
by them 

Among other means which a Religious Order and our 
Society in particular provides to aid and animate its sub- 
jects to advance in virtue and perfection, spiritual confer- 
ences and exhortations, concerning which we have a rule, 
hold a chief place. Accordingly we shall say something of 
the way how to profit by them, which may serve to help 
all the world to profit by the sermons which they hear. 
In the first place, it will help much to this end not to go 
to exhortations by routine and for form's sake, but with 
a sincere desire of profiting and getting good by them. 
Let us consider with what eager longings those Fathers 
of the Desert met for those spiritual collations and con- 
ferences which they held, and what good store of provision 
they took from thence back to their cells. With the like 
eagerness and desire should we go to exhortations, and 
then they will turn to our profit; as when a man goes to 
dinner with a good appetite, it then appears that what he 
eats is likely to do him good. St. Chrysostom observes 
that as hunger is a sign of the body's being in good health, 
so a longing desire of being nourished with the word of 
God is a sign of a good and happy disposition of the soul. 
But if you do not hunger after the divine word, nor find 
any relish in it, it is a bad sign, and shows that you are 
sick, since you have lost your appetite, and your soul 
loathes this spiritual food. If for no other reason, the 
mere thought of hearing a little speech and discourse of 
God should be enough to make us go to these conferences 
with great relish and delight, for naturally a man is glad 
to hear another speak well of one he loves, as a father to 
hear of his son. If you loved God, you would delight to 
hear Him spoken of. So Christ our Redeemer says : He 
■who is of God, heareth the word of God, and the reason 


CH. xviii 



why ye desire not to hear it, is because ye are not of God 
(John viii. 47). 

Secondly, if we intend to draw benefit from these dis- 
courses, we must not listen to them in a spirit of curiosity, 
marking the good language, the graceful action and pro- 
nunciation, the quaint and new conceits of the preacher. It 
is this that with great reason we blame in secular persons, 
and this is why nowadays many profit so little by sermons; 
We should turn away our eyes from that and fix them on 
the substance of what is said. What should we say of a 
sick man, whom the barber-surgeon comes to bleed, and 
he, instead of letting himself be bled, takes to admiring 
the instruments. ' Oh what a neat lancet!' ' Oh what 
a pretty razor ! ' ' Oh what an elegant sheath ! where was 
it made ?' Leave that alone, and let yourself be 
bled : that is your business, the rest is no affair of yours. 
The like do they who neglect the substance of what is 
said, which is what they stand in need of, and occupy 
themselves with the words, the plan and artifice of the 
discourse. Such people may aptly be compared to a sieve 
or boulter, that retains only the chaff and bran, and lets 
all the corn and meal pass through. The Second Book of 
Esdras says that when Esdras read the Law of God to the 
people of Israel, such was their emotion and so loud their 
lamentations and groans, comparing their doings and life 
with the Law which they heard, that the Levites had to 
go about pacifying them and proclaiming silence, to enable 
the reader to continue. It is in this way that exhortations 
and sermons should be heard, with confusion and com- 
punction of heart, considering how different we are from 
the standard they put before us, and how far we are from 
the perfection there proposed. 

In the third place, and by way of confirmation of what 
has gone before, all should understand that these exhorta- 
tions are not for the saying of new and extraordinary 
things, but to bring to mind common and ordinary things, 
things that we have daily in hand, and to warm our hearts 
to them. We should go to them on this understanding, 
and thus casting aside all curiosity we shall profit more 
by them. To this end our Father expressly orders that 
these discourses be given in our Society. " Let there be 

7 8 


some one," he says, " who every week, or at least every 
fortnight, shall deliver these and the like admonitions, 
lest by the weakness of our nature things be forgotten and 
their execution dropped." By the way, Father Master 
Nadal notes here in his Observations on the Constitutions, 
that though the Constitution uses the disjunctive, " every 
week, or at least every fortnight," nevertheless it is the 
universal custom of the Society that this is not put off 
for a fortnight, but is done every week. The Society has 
taken the better course, and no one could say this better 
(than Nadal), since he had visited almost the whole Society, 
and knew well the universal custom of the same. These 
discourses are to refresh the memory of what we know, 
because we easily forget what is good, and need to have 
it told us again and again. And even though we hold it 
in memory, yet we must have it cried out to us to quicken 
our will and desire, telling us of our obligation and pro- 
fession, and what we have come to Religion for. True 
is that saying of St. Augustine : " The understanding 
flies before, but little or no movement of the heart 
follows." Prcevolat intellectus, sequitur tardus vel nullus 
affectus. Therefore it is necessary to say the same thing 
many times over, as did St. Paul to the Philippians : For 
the rest, brethren, rejoice in the Lord: to write to you the 
same thing is no trouble to me, and is necessary for you 
(Phil. iii. i). The Apostle was in no want of things to 
say, he who had been raised to the third heaven could 
tell them things dainty and new, but he felt himself 
obliged to say and repeat the same things that he had 
already said, because that was more necessary for them. 
And this should be the particular aim of him who gives 
these exhortations, and of him who preaches sermons, not 
to say what promises to make him appear more learned 
and erudite, — for that would bd to preach himself,— but 
what promises best for the benefit of his hearers ; and 
this is what the hearers also themselves should look for. 
Thus they will not wax weary of hearing common things 
that they know, for they will see that they do them not, or 
anyhow do them not with such perfection as they ought. 

Fourthly, it will be of very great profit that whatever 
is said in exhortations be received by each one as particu- 

ch. xviii 



larly addressed to himself, and not as a thing- said for the 
benefit of others. Let us not act herein as worldly persons 
ordinarily do when they hear a sermon. A great preacher 
used to say : " All you who hear me are like carvers : for 
all the business of the carver is to cut up for others, and 
take nothing- for himself. So you, when you hear me, 
say : ' Oh, what a g-ood point for Dick ! Oh, how that will 
come home to Harry ! Oh, if that neighbour of mine 
were here, how it would meet his case!' and you keep 
nothing for yourselves. I want guests, not carvers of the 
word of God. " Every wise word that the prudent man 
shall hear, says Ecclesiasticus (xxi. 18), he will approve 
and take to himself; but the vicious and vain is displeased 
with it, and throw eth it over his shoulder. Let us then 
be wise, and let every one take what is said as said for 
him, as if it were said for him alone, and he alone were 
being spoken to and no other. Possibly, what seems to 
come home well to another will come home better to your- 
self : we often see the mote in our neighbour's eye, and 
see not the beam in our own (Matt. vii. 3). This especi- 
ally, because thpugh at present you feel not that the point 
touches you, you should store it up for afterwards, when 
you will find the need of it, and that perhaps very soon. 
Thus you should always take what is said as said for you 

In the fifth place, better to clear up what we have said, 
it is highly proper that all should understand, and always 
take for granted, that when a thing is mentioned or repre- 
hended in these addresses, it is not as implying that the 
mischief is already in the house, but simply that it may 
never come to be there. Preventive and preservative 
medicine is much better than what is given for the cure of a 
malady already broken out. And this is what we do in 
these exhortations, according to the counsel of the Wise 
Man: Apply the medicine before the illness (Ecclus. 
xviii. 20). We apply the medicine and the remedy before 
the sickness comes, exhorting to what is good and censur- 
ing what is evil, that no one may Come to fall into what 
he knows already for a thing evil and dangerous. Thus 
it would be a great fault to form such a judgment as, 'this 
is said for our friend John, ' and still more to utter it. The 



speaker does not intend to note any one in particular, — 
for that would not be prudent, nor profitable, but would 
rather do harm. So to pass such a judgment would be to 
condemn the giver of the exhortation of doing a thing that 
would be very ill done. 

But although this circumspection and care should be 
observed on the part of him who preaches or gives the con- 
ference, yet on the part of the listener it will be very well 
for everyone to take what is said as said for himself and for 
himself alone. Not that he should understand that it was 
the speaker's purpose to point to him and mark him out, 
for that would be wrong, as we have said, but that every 
one in the audience should begin listening with his hand 
on his breast, and comparing his actions and life with what 
he hears, should say : ' Truly all this is addressee} to me : 
I stand in great need of it : God has put it into his mouth 
for my benefit ' : for from this, much fruit will be gained. 
From the conversation that Christ our Redeemer held 
with the Samaritan woman, the Holy Gospel says that she 
went away crying out and saying : Come and see a man 
who hath told me all that hath befallen me (John iv. 29). 
When the preacher speaks to his audience and tells them 
what passes in their souls, then the sermon and conference 
is a good one, and it is that which satisfies them and does 
them good. 

Sixthly, it is necessary that we should understand the 
word of God to be the food and sustenance of the soul ; 
and so we should always contrive to gather something 
from conferences and sermons to keep and preserve in our 
heart, to strengthen and sustain us for subsequent action. 
On these words of Christ : The good soil on which the 
seed falls are they who with a good heart and good dis- 
position hear and receive the word of God, and bear fruit 
of good works in patience (Luke viii. 15) : St. Gregory says 
that as it is a grave and dangerous infirmity for a man not 
to retain in his stomach the bodily food which he eats, but 
cast it up at once, so is it not to retain in one's heart the 
word of God that one hears, but it comes in at one ear and 
goes out at the other. The Prophet says : I have hidden 
away, O Lord, and guarded thy words in my heart, not to 
sin (Ps. 1 18), to resist temptations, to rouse myself to virtue 

CH. XV111 



and perfection. How often does it happen that one is 
under temptation and in some danger, and one remembers 
some text of Holy Scripture, or some other good thing 
that one has heard, and thereupon one is strengthened and 
animated and feels much benefit ! With three texts of 
Holy Scripture Christ our Redeemer overcame and routed 
the three temptations with which the devil assailed Him 
(Matt. iv. 4, 7, 10). 

From what has been said it will be seen how reprehen- 
sible they are who go to conferences' and sermons for 
form's sake, or are there sleeping, or distracted and think- 
ing of other things, which comes to the same as sleeping. 
The Holy Gospel says : The devil cometh and taketh the 
word out of their heart, that they may not be saved (Luke 
viii. 12), or profit thereby. These are the birds of prey 
that devour the grain that it may not spring up. Possibly 
that word which you lost when you were asleep or dis- 
tracted was a means to your improvement; and the devil, 
for the envy that he bears to your good, contrives in all the 
ways that he can that it may not take root in your heart. 
St. Augustine says that the word of God is like a fish-hook, 
that takes when it is taken. As when the fish takes the 
hook it is caught and held thereby, so when you take and 
receive the word of God, you are taken and held by it. 
That is why the devil labours so much to draw off your 
attention, that you may not apprehend what is said, that 
you may not be held by it, and that it may not gain any 
hold on your heart. Let us then make it our endeavour 
to go to conferences and sermons with due dispositions, 
and so to hear the word of God that it may take hold on 
our heart and bear fruit. The Apostle St. James says : 
Be ye not hearers only of the word of God, but doers. Do 
not deceive yourselves, by thinking that you fulfil all you 
ought by listening, because he that heareth the word of 
God and doeth it not is like a man who looketh at his own 
face in a looking-glass, and presently goeth away and 
forgeiteth his form and figure (James i. 22-3). They alone 
shall be justified who put things into execution : for, as 
St. Paul says, it is not the hearers of the law that shall be 
accounted just before God, but the doers of the law shall 
be justified (Rom. ii. 13). 



In the Spiritual Meadow, which was composed by John 
Eviratus, or according to others, by St. Sophronius, 
Patriarch of Jerusalem, and was approved in the Second 
Council of Nicaea, (and Theodoret has the story in his 
Religious History), it is related that one day a holy man, 
named Eusebius, was sitting with another, named 
Amianus, reading a book of the Gospels. Amianus read 
and the other explained as he went on. Now it happened 
that some labourers were working on the land in a 
field. Eusebius was distracted by looking at them, 
and did not attend to the reading. Then Amianus, 
having a doubt about a passage he was reading, 
asked Eusebius to explain it. Eusebius, as he had not 
been attending, asked him to read it again. Amianus saw 
he had been distracted, and reproved him, saying : " No 
wonder you did not notice, as you should have done, the 
words of the Gospel : you were amusing yourself, watch- 
ing those labourers. " When Eusebius heard this reproof, 
he was so ashamed of himself that he gave command to 
his eyes that at no time should they find satisfaction in 
looking at any sight, not even at the stars of heaven. 
Thence he took a narrow path homewards, and shut him- 
self up in a hut, and never went out of it again for all the 
rest of his life. In this strait prison he lived for forty 
years and more, until he died. And that necessity as well 
as reason might compel him to keep quiet, he bound him- 
self by the loins with a girdle of iron, and with another 
heavier cincture about his neck. To these cinctures of 
iron he fastened a chain, and the chain he fastened to the 
ground, so that he was forced to remain bent, and could 
not go freely, nor look on any sight, not even on the stars 
of heaven. In this way the servant of God punished him- 
self for one inadvertence and distraction, that happened 
at the exposition of the word of God, — to our confusion 
who make so little account of the many distractions that 
we have. 




That our advancement and perfection consists in doing 
ordinary actions extraordinarily well 

Thou shalt go justly about what is just, says the Lord 
to His people (Deut. xvi. 20) : what is good and just, do 
it well, justly and handsomely. The business of ou r 
advancement and perfection does not consist in doing 
things, but in doing them well ; as neither does it consist 
in being a Religious, but in being a good Religious. Pau- 
linus had made much of St. Jerome's living in the Holy 
Places, where Christ our Lord wrought the mysteries of 
our redemption ; and St. Jerome wrote back to him : " It 
is not the living in Jerusalem that is praiseworthy, but the 
living well in Jerusalem." Which saying afterwards be- 
came a proverb, to warn Religious not to be content with 
being in Religion, because, as the habit does not make 
the monk, so neither does the place, but a good and holy 
life. The point is not being a Religious, but being a good 
Religious; not doing the exercises of Religious Life, but 
doing them well. All our good consists in what the Evan- 
gelist St. Mark relates that the people said of Christ. He 
hath done all things well (Mark vii. 37). 

It is certain that all our good and all our evil depends 
on our works according as they are good or evil, for we 
ourselves shall be such as our works have been. They 
tell what each man is made of, for by the fruit the tree is 
known. St. Augustine says that the man is the tree, and 
the works the fruit that it bears ; and thus by the fruit 
of works it is known what each man is. And therefore 
Christ our Redeemer said of those hypocrites and false 



preachers : By the fruit of their works ye shall know what 
they are (Matt. vii. 16). And contrariwise He says of 
Himself : The works that I do give testimony of me ; if 
ye will not believe me, believe my works, for they tell who 
I am (John x. 25, 38). And our works tell not only what 
each one is in this life, but also what he must be in the 
next ; for we shall be such for ever in the life to 
come as our works have been in this : for God our Lord 
will recompense and reward every one according to 
his works, as is often said in Holy Writ, as well in the 
Old as in the New Testament : Thou, Lord, wilt render 
to everyone according to his works (Ps. 61) ; and St. Paul, 
What a man soweth, the same shall he reap (Gal. vi. 8). 

But let us descend to particulars, and see what those 
works are, upon which all our good, and all our advanc e- 
Gl£LQtii!35ij2Si;I^J^i9ILilS15 e 54^^ _| say they are jio ot her than 
SmL com mon_and gr^B ^yS-JSi i^flti-g- 110 ^ a -S we ^"thro ugh 
everyjday . In taking- care that the ordinary meditation 
which we make be well made, in making a good thing of 
those examens that we make, in hearing Mass and saying 
it as we ought, in reciting our Hours and other devotions 
with reverence and attention, in exercising ourselves con- 
tinually in penance and mortification, in doing our office 
and the duty laid upon us by obedience so that it be well 
done, in this rests our advancement and perfection. If 
we do these actions perfectly, we shall be perfect ; if we 
do them imperfectly, we shall be imperfect. And this is 
the difference between a good and perfect Religious and 
an'imperfeet and tepid one : the difference lies not in the 
doing of more or different things in this case and in that, 
but in doing what one does perfectly or imperfectly. For 
this, is one man a good and perfect Religious, because he 
gets these things well done; and for this, is another im- 
perfect, because he does them with much tepidity and 
negligence. And the more a man lays himself out and 
goes forward in this particular, the more perfect or im- 

In that parable of the Sower who went out to sow his 
Seed, the Holy Gospel says that even the good seed, sown 
on good soil, yielded here thirty-fold, there sixty-fold and 
there a hundred-fold (Matt. xiii. 23). Whereby, as the 


Saints explain, are denoted the three different degrees of 
those that serve God, — beginners, proficient, and perfect. 
We all sow the same seed, because we all do the same 
actions and observe the same Rule ; all of us have the same 
hours for meditation and examens, and from morning till 
night we are all occupied by obedience, yet, for all that, 
how one man excels, another, homo, homini qui praestat! 
What a difference, they say, between Peter and Peter, 
between one Religious and another ! The reason is, be- 
cause in one the works that he sows yield a hundred-fold, 
inasmuch as he does them with spirit and perfection, and 
these are the perfect : in another, they yield increase, -but 
not so much, only sixty-fold, and these are they who go 
on improving : in another they yield only thirty -fold, 
and these are beginners in God's service. Let every- 
one therefore see to which of these degrees he is 
arrived. See if you be not amongst those who yield only 
thirty-fold : and God grant that none pf us find ourselves 
of the number, of them of whom the Apostle St. Paul says 
that on the foundation of faith they have built wood 
and straw and chaff to burn in the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 
in. 12, 13). • 

Take care therefore you do nothing out of ostentation, 
out of human respect, to please men, or to gain their 
esteem, for -this were to make a building of wood, straw 
and chaff, to burn at least in purgatory ; but endeavour to 
do all your actions with the greatest perfection you are 
able, and that will be to erect. a structure all of silver, gold 
and precious stones. 

The fact that herein lies our advancement and perfec- 
tion will be well understood from this consideration : all 
pur advancement and [perfection consists in two things : 
jn doing what God would have us do, and in doing it as 
He would have us do it : nothing more can be asked, 
nothing more can be desired than this. As to the first, 
the doing of what God would have us do, by the mercy 
of God we, have already secured that in Religion, and. this 
is one of the greatest advantages and greatest comforts 
that we enjoy, that we are sure tha t in the occ upations 
given us by obedience we are doing. wh a t God would have , 
us do . This stands for a first principle in Religion, drawn 


from the Gospel and the doctrine of the Saints. He that 
heareth you, heareth me (Luke x. 16). In obeying the 
Superior we obey God and do His will, because that is 
what God requires us to do there and then. There remains 
the second point, which is, doing things as God would 
have us do them, that is, with all possible perfection, 
because so God would have us do them, and that is 
what we are speaking of. It is recounted in the 
Chronicles of the Cistercian Order, that St. Bernard, being 
with his Religious at Matins, saw a multitude of angels 
who noted and wrote down what the monks did and how 
they did it. They noted the doings of some in letters of 
gold, of others in silver, of others in ink, of others in 
water, according to the attention and fervour with which 
each one prayed and sang. But of some, they wrote 
nothing at all, who, being present in body, but absent in 
spirit, let themselves be carried away with vain and un- 
profitable thoughts. He saw also that chiefly at the Te 
Deum the angels were much concerned that it should 
be sung very devoutly, and that from the mouths of some, 
when they intoned it, there came out as it were a flame of 
fire. Therefore let everyone see what his prayer is like; 
whether it deserves to be written in gold, or in ink, or in 
water, or not to be written at all. See whether, when you 
are at prayer, there come forth from your heart and 
mouth flames of fire, or yawns and expressions of disgust. 
See whether you are there in body only, but in spirit at 
your studies, or your office or business, or other things not 
to the point. 


That it ought greatly to animate us to perfection, that 
God has put it in something that is very easy 

Father Master Nadal, a man distinguished in our Society 
for his learning and virtue, when he came to visit the 
Provinces of Spain, made this one of the chief recommen- 
dations that he left behind him, that our advancement and 
perfection consisted in doing well the parti cular ordinar y 
jindjlalTy" things Tthat we Have in han d. Thus our progress 

CH. 11 



and improvement does not lie in a multiplicatibn of various 
extraordinary works, nor in filling high and exalted offices, 
but in doing perfectly the ordinary duties of Religion, and 
filling those offices in which obedience places us, though 
they be the meanest in the world, because that is what God 
requires of us. On this we should fix our eyes, if we wish 
to please Him and attain perfection. Let us then conside r 
at what a little cost we may be perfect, since we may be 
that by doing what we actually are doing- without adding 
further wor ks, which should be a great consolation for 
all, and animate us much to perfection. If we demanded 
it of you for your perfection exquisite and extraordinary 
things, elevations and lofty contemplations, you might ex- 
cuse yourself, saying that you could not venture so high. If 
we demanded of you daily disciplines to blood, or fasting 
on bread and water, or going barefoot with a perpetual 
hairshirt, you might say that you did not feel strong 
enough for that. But that is not what we demand of you, 
nor in that does your perfection lie, but in doing the very 
thing that you are doing, taking care that it be well done. 
With the same works that you are doing, if you like, you 
can be perfect : the cost is already paid, you need not add 
more works. Who will not be animated hereby to be 
perfect, when perfection comes so ready to his hand, and 
lies in a thing so familiar and so feasible? 

God said to His people, to animate them to His service 
and the observance of His law : The commandment that I 
give thee this day is not a thing very far and very exalted 
above thee, nor is it set there on the horn of the moon, 
that thou shouldst be able to say: which of us can mount 
up to heaven to reach it? Nor again is it a thing on the 
far side of the sea, that thou shouldst take occasion to say: 
who shall be able to cross the sea, and bring it hither from 
such a distance? No, it is very near and very ready to thy 
hand (Deut. xxx. 11). We may say the same of the per- 
fection of which we now speak. So with this considera- 
tion the blessed StI Antony exhorted and animated his 
disciples to perfection. "The Greeks," he said, *" to 
attain to philosophy and the other sciences, take great 
journeys and long voyages, with great labour and risk to 
themselves : but we, to attain virtue and perfection, which 



TR. 11 

is the true wisdom, have no need to put ourselves to such 
labours and perils, not even to stir out of our house ; since 
within the house we shall find it, and even within ourselves. 
The kingdom of God is within you (Luke xvii. 21). Grdeci 
studia transmarina sectantur, regnum autem coelorum 
intra vos est. In these ordinary and daily things that you 
do, your perfection lies. 

An ordinary question at spiritual conferences at a time 
of devotion, such as Lent, Advent, Whitsuntide, or Re- 
novation of Vows, is what means will help us to dispose 
and prepare ourselves for this Renovation, or this Lent, or 
to receive the Holy Ghost or the Child Jesus newly born. 
You will see given such and such means and such and such 
considerations, all good. But the principal means, and 
that on which we ought to insist, is that of which we 
speak now, namely, to perfect ourselves in our ordinary 
actions. Go to work ridding yourself of the faults and 
imperfections, which you commit in these ordinary and 
daily things : contrive daily to do them better and with 
fewer faults ; and that will be a very good, or rather the 
best preparation for all that you seek. Fix your eyes on 
this principally, and let all other means and considerations 
go to help this. 


In what the goodness and perfection of our actions 
consists, and of some means to do them well 

Let us now see in what the goodness of our actions 
consists, to the end that thereby we may better come to 
know the means of doing them well. I say briefly that 
it consists in two things ; of which the first and chiefest 
is, that we act/purelv )tor_GQd~ St. Ambrose asks the 
reason why Gocl, In the creation of the world, after He 
had created corporeal things and the animals, praised 
them at once. God created the plants and trees, and Scrip- 
ture says at once that He saw that it was good (Gen. 
i. 10-25). He created the beasts upon the earth, the birds 
also and fishes ; and He saw that it was good. He created 

CH. Ill 



the heavens and stars, the sun and moon ; and He saw 
that it was good. He praised everything He created, as 
soon as He had created it. But man He seems to leave 
alone without praise, because He added not presently He 
saw that it was good, as He said of the rest. What mys- 
tery is this ? And what can be the cause of this difference ? 
The cause, says the Saint, is this: that the beauty and 
goodness of beasts and corporeal things consists in their 
outward appearance ; and there is nothing perfect in them 
besides what at once strikes the eye ; and therefore they 
may be praised as soon as they are seen. But the good- 
ness and perfection of man consists, not in the exterior, 
but in what lies inwardly hidden. All the glory of the king's 
daughter is from within (Ps. 44). It is this which is pleas- 
ing in God's sight. For man seeth what outwardly ap- 
peareth, but the Lord seeth the heart (1 Kings xvi. 7). He 
sees with what intention everyone does each action, and 
it is upon this account that He did not praise man, as He 
did all other creatures, as soon as He had created him. 
The inte ntion is the foundation of the goodness of all ou rj? 
actions. \ Foundations are not seen, arid yet they sustain 
the whole edifice. Our intention also does the same. 
The second thing required for the perfection of all our 
actions, is that w e do w hat we ca n on o ur p arFto do them 
well. It is no/t ^nough_that your intention b e good, .nor 

OiuT^BIe^sed^atherlgnatius onceasCed a bratnerwno 
was somewhat negligent in his office : " Brother, for whom 
are you doing that?" "For the love of God," answered the 
Brother. Said our Father: " Then I assure you that if 
hereafter you do it in that way, I shall take care to give 
you a right down good penance ; for if you did it for men, 
it were no great fault to do it with so little care ; but 
doing it for so great a Lord, it is a great fault to do it in 
that style." 

The second mean s which the Saints set forth as very 
efficacious to this end is to .walk in the presence of God. 
Seneca says that a man desirous of virtue and of doing 
things well should imagine that he is in presence of some 
personage for whom he has a great respect, and do and 


say all things as he would do and say them if he really 
were in that person's presence. Sic vive tanquam sub ali- 
cujus boni viri et semper praesentis oculis. Now if this be 
sufficient for doing - things well, how much more effectual 
will it be to walk in the presence of God, and keep Him 
ever before our eyes, considering that He is looking at 
us,- — especially as this is no imagination, like the other, 
but a reality and fact, as Scripture so often repeats. The 
eyes of God are clearer than the light of the sun: they see 
all the ways and steps of men, and the depths of the abyss, 
and the hearts of mortals and the most hidden things there- 
in (Ecclus. xxiii. 28). p.Jt'^ 

Hereafter we shall treat expressly of/rhis prac- 
tice of walking in the presence of God, and say 
how excellent and profitable it is, and how esteemed 
and recommended by the Saints. Just now the 
only thing we shall borrow from it, as making for our 
present purpose, is the importance of doing ordinary 
actions right well. Walking in the p resence of God means 
not merely dwelli ng in that p resence, but using it as a 
motive for whatever actions we d o, to do them well. Any_ 
attention to _GckTs_ j)resence _that_ makes us neglec t our 
work and commit faults in it, woul d be no sound devotion, 
but an illusion. Some writers go further and say that the 
presence of God which we ought to practise, and which 
Holy Scripture and the Saints so much recommend to us, 
consists in contriving to do our actions in such manner 
and in such good style that they may stand in the sight of 
God, without there being in them any element unworthy 
of His eyes and His presence ; in short, behaving as one 
who is doing things in presence of God looking on. 

This apparently is what the Evangelist St. John would 
give us to understand in his Apocalypse (iv. 8) when 
rehearsing the properties of those holy living creatures 
that he saw before the throne of God, ready to accom- 
plish His behests, he says that they were, full of eyes with- 
in and without and all around, — eyes in their feet, eyes 
in their hands, eyes in their ears, eyes in their lips, eyes " 
in their very eyes, — to signify to us that they who seek 
perfectly to praise God, and be worthy of His presence, 
ought in all things to be on the look-out not to do any- 

ch. iii 



thing unworthy of the presence of God. You should be 
full of eyes within and without, looking to see how you 
work and how you walk, and how you talk and how you 
listen, and how you look and how you think, and how you 
mean and how you desire, that in all your actions there 
may be nothing that can offend the eyes of God, in whose 
watchful presence you stand. This is an excellent way 
of walking in the presence of God. So Ecclesiasticus and 
the Apostle St. Paul, commenting on the passage in 
Genesis where it is said of Enoch that he walked with 
God, which is the same thing as in the presence of God, 
and was seen no more, because the Lord took him (Gen. 
v, 24), say that Enoch pleased God, and was translated to 
paradise (Ecclus. xliv. 16: Heb. xi. 5), giving us clearly 
to understand that it is all one and the same thing to 
walk with God and to please God, since they explain the 
one phrase by the other. 

In this manner Origen and St. Augustine explain what 
Holy Scripture says in Exodus (xviii. 12), that when Jethro 
came to see his son-in-law Moses, Aaron and all the ciders 
of Israel joined him to eat bread before God. It does not 
mean that they met to eat before the Tabernacle, or before 
the Ark, which was not yet in existence, but that they 
met to feast, and eat and drink and make merry with him, 
but all with as much piety and holiness and religious com- 
posure as became people feasting in the presence of God, 
taking care that there should be nothing that might offend 
His divine eyes. In this way the just and perfect walk 
before God in all things, even in things indifferent and 
which are necessities of human life. Let the just, says the 
Prophet, eat and drink in season, and make merry and re- 
joice at proper times (Ps. 67), yet always in God's presence, 
in such sort that everything they do may stand before the 
eyes of God, and there be nothing in it unworthy of His 

In this way also many Saints say that we accomplish 
what Christ our Redeemer says in His Gospel, We must 
always pray and never desist (Luke xviii. 1), and what 
St. Paul says to the_ Thessalonians, Pray without ceasing 
(1 Thess. v. 17). They say that he prays always who is 
always d oing good. So St. Augustine on the verse, all 


day long thy praise (Ps. 34) says : " Would you find a 
good means of being all day long praising God ? Do well 
all that you do, and so you will be ever praising God." 
Quidquid egeris bene age,, et laudasti Deum. The same 
says St. Hilary: " By this we succeed in praying with- 
out ceasing, when by means of actions pleasing to God, and 
done always to His glory, all our life is converted into 
prayer. And in this way, living according to the law 
day and night, our very life will come to be a daily and 
nightly meditation on his law (Ps. 1)." And St. Jerome on 
that verse : Praise ye him, sun and moon, praise ye him 
all ye stars and light (Ps. 148), asks how can sun and moon 
and light and stars praise God, and answers : " Do you 
know how they praise Him? In that they never cease 
doing their duty well ; they are always serving God and 
doing that whereunto they were created, and this is to 
be always praising God." Thus he who does his duty 
well, doing right well the daily and ordinary things of 
Religious Life, is always praising God, and always in 
prayer^ We may confirm this from what the Holy Ghost 
says by the Wise Man : He who observeth the law 
multiplieth prayer; it is a wholesome sacrifice to keep the 
commandments and stand aloof from all sin (Ecclus. xxxv. 
1). Hereby is well seen how much value and perfection 
attaches to doing the ordinary things that we do, taking 
care that they be well done ; and how this is living ever 
in prayer and in the presence of God, and is a sacrifice 
very wholesome and very pleasing to God. 


Of another means to do our actions well, which is to 
do them as if we had nothing else to do 

The third means to do our actions well is to do each of 
them apart, as though we had nothing e lse to do ; to make 
our meditation, to say Mass, to recite our beads and 
Divine Office, and to do all the rest of our actions as if 
really we had no other business but just this that we are 
about. What gets in our way? Let us not mix up our 


works ; let not one hinder the other ; let us keep ourselves 
always to that which we are doing at present. While we 
are at prayer, let us not think of our studies, nor of our 
office, nor of business : all that serves only to hinder 
prayer, so that we do neither the one nor the other well. 
You have all the rest of the day left to study in, to do the 
duties of your office, to fulfil your ministry. All things 
have their time (Eccles. - iii. t) j let us give to each thing 
its proper time : sufficient for the day is the evil thereof 
(Matt. vi. 34). 

This is a means so just and so conformable to reason, 
that even the pagans, who had not the faith, taught it as 
the proper way to deal more reverently with those beings 
whom they took for gods. Hence sprang that old pro- 
verb, adoraturi sedeunt : " Let them who are to deal with 
God 'settle down to do it," in attention and repose, not 
cursorily and distractedly. ' Plutarch, speaking of the 
regard and reverence with which priests in his time ap- 
proached their gods, says that whilst the priest offered 
sacrifice, a herald ceased not to cry out and say in a loud 
voice, hoc age, hoc age, "mind this, mind this. " Put 
your whole self into this business, do not turn aside, look 
well to the business on which you are engaged this hour. 
Such then is the means that we • are proposing now, to 
endeavour to be wholly absorbed in what we are doing, 
making that our steady purpose and, as it were, sitting 
down to it, doing each action as though we had nothing 
else to do. Think what you are about, stand to that, put 
all your care and energy into that which is now present, 
never mind for the. time being the whole of the rest of 
creation, and in that way you will do everything well. 

A philosopher set about to prove that we should at- 
tend only to what we are doing at present, and not to the 
past nor to the future, and he gave this reason : the present 
alone is that which is in our power, and not the past nor 
the future, for what is already past is no longer in our 
power j and as for the future we do not know whether it 
will come. Oh if a man could succeed with himself and 
be so far master of his thoughts and imaginations as never 
to think of anything else but what he is at present doing ! 
But such is the instability of our heart, and on the other 



hand so great the malice and cunning of the devil, that 
availing himself thereof he brings before us thoughts and 
solicitudes of what we are to do next, to hinder and dis- 
turb us from doing what is before us at present. This is 
a very common temptation of the devil, and a very harm- 
ful and ingenious one, his aim being therein that we 
should never do anything well. For this purpose the devil 
brings in at meditation thoughts of business, study, the 
duties of your office, and represents to you how you might 
do this or do that well, to the end that you may not make 
the meditation well, which is your present concern ; and 
in return for that he does not hesitate to put before you 
a thousand ways and manners of doing that other thing 
well in the future, to the end that you may do nothing 
well now ; and afterwards, when you come to the doing 
of it, he will not fail to find something else to put before 
you, that you may not do that well either. And in this 
way he goes on playing tricks upon us, that we may never 
do anything well. But his intentions are not hidden from us 
(2 Cor. ii. 11), we understand them well. Leave alone 
what is to come, and just at present take no care of it ; 
for though that be a good suggestion for afterwa rds, it 
is not good to thin k of i t now. And when there comes 
to you this temptation under pretence that afterwards 
you will not remember the suggestion that then occurred, 
by that very fact you will see that it is not of God, but a 
temptation of the devil, because God is not a friend of 
confusion, but of peace and tranquillity, order and agree- 
ment. Thus what disturbs your peace and tranquillity and 
J the order of things, is not from God, but from the devil, 
\ who loves confusion and perturbation. Let it alone, and 
trust in God that on your doing what you ought to do He 
will suggest to you in due time all that will make to your 
purpose, and with advantages. And even though the 
reason and the good point, and the good argument and 
solution, that occur to you at the time of your spiritual 
duties, seem the very thing that you wanted, turn 
it down, and believe that you will lose nothing thereby, 
but rather gain. St. Bonaventure says that the scien ce 
I which is set aside for virtue's sake is found afterwards 
\more amply by that same virtue. And Father Master 

CH. V 



Avila says : " When a care comes to you out of due time, 
say : My Lord gives me no orders about this just now, 
and I have no business to think about it. When my Lord 
shall command me, then I will deal with it." 


Of another -means, which is to do every action CIS if 

it were to be the last of our life 

The fourth means which the Saints give for doing our 
actions well, is to do every action as though it were to be 
the last of our life. St. Bernard says, directing a Reli- 
gious how to do his actions : " Let each one ask himself 
over every action : If you were to die at once, would you 
do this? would you do it in this manner?" And St. Basil 
says' a thing, which another holy man also says, to put it 
in plain English, thus : " You should conduct yourself in 
every action as if you were to die at once. In the morn- 
ing think that you shall not live till night; and when the 
night Comes, do not dare to promise yourself that you 
shall see the morning, for many die suddenly " (A Kem- 
pis). This is a very efficacious means of doing everything 
well. And so we read of the blessed Abbot St. Antony, 
that he often gave this reminder to his disciples, to ani- 
mate them to virtue and to doing things with perfection. 
Another author says : " Think that every day is your last." 
Omnem crede diem tibi diluxisse supremum. If we did 
things each in turn as if we were to die at once, and as 
though this action were to be our last, we should do them 
in another manner and with Other perfection. Oh what 
a Mass should I say, if I understood that that was to be 
the last action of my life, and that there was now no 
time left me to work or gain merit ! Oh what a medi- 
tation should I make, if I understood that that was my 
last, and that now I had no more time to beg God's mercy 
and pardon for my sins ! Hence the proverb : " If you 
want to know how to pray, go to sea." Prayer is ma de 
in 'another manner wi t h death bef ore .one's eyes. 

They tell of a Religious, a priest and servant of God, 


that he had the custom of going to confession every day 
to prepare for saying Mass. At the end of his course he 
fell sick, and the Superior, seeing the sickness to be mor- 
tal, said to him : " Father, you are very ill : make your 
dying confession." The sick man answered, raising his 
hands to heaven : " Blessed and praised be the Lord, that 
now for thirty years and more I have made my confession 
every day as if I were to die at once ; and so there will be 
no need now but to get ready for absolution as I would if 
I were about to say Mass." That man went on well, and 
so we should go on. Every confession we should make 
as though it were our dying confession, and every Com- 
munion as though it were our dying Communion, and so 
do all our other actions ; and thereby at the hour of our 
death it would not be necessary to tell us to confess so 
as to be ready to die, but only to dispose ourselves for 
absolution as though we were going to Communion. If 
we lived always in this way, death would find us 
well-prepared, and never come upon us as a sur- 
prise. And this is the best prayer and the best devotion 
to guard against a sudden death. Happy, says Christ our 
Redeemer, is that servant whom his master, at his coming, 
shall find thus watching (Matt. xxiv. 46). And so lived 
holy Job : All the days of this life, he says, J am looking 
for the other life (Job. xiv. 14). Every day I make account 
that this is the last for me. Call me, O Lord, on the day 
that Thou pleasest, since I am disposed and prepared to 
answer Thee, and to meet Thy call at any time and hour 
that Thou wishest to call. 

One of the best means to know whether we walk well 
and rightly before God, is to consider whether we are in 
a state to answer Him at what time soever He calls, and 
in what occupation soever we are engaged. I speak not 
here of an infallible certainty, because such is not to be 
had in this life without a particular revelation ; but I speak 
only of probable and moral conjectures, which is all we 
can pretend unto. A great and main test is to 
see whether in the condition and present conjuncture 
you are in, and in the very action you are about, you would 
not take it ill that death should come upon you. Think 
whether you are as ready to answer to God as Job was, 

CH. V 



in case He should call you at this moment. Try yoursel f 
often in this manner, and ask yourself many times this 
question : If dea th were to come upon you now, would 
vqu have reason to be glad ? When I reflect and ask my- 
self whether I find that I should be glad if death were to 
come upon me at this instant and in the very action I am 
doing, methinks I am going on well, and feel some satis- 
faction. But when I find that I should not like Death to 
come just at present, and catch me in this office, occupa- 
tion and conjuncture, but had rather he would wait a bit 
until the schemes I have on hand, which distract my 
thoughts, were brought to an issue, that is not a good 
sign, but rather I take it for a clear indication that I am 
neglecting my spiritual welfare and not living as a Reli- 
gious should do. For as that holy man says : " If you 
had a good conscience, you would not much fear death," 
and if you do fear it so much, it is a sign that you have 
some remorse of conscience, and your accounts are not in 
good order. Better fear sin than death. The steward 
whose accounts are in good order desires that his masters 
should come and take them; but he who has them in bad 
order is afraid of their coming, and sets up all the excuses 
and delays in his power. 

Father Francis Borgia used to say that a good exercise 
for a' Religious was four and twenty times a day to put 
himself in the condition of a dying man; and he added 
that a man might then think himself in a good state when, 
often repeating these words : ' I must die to-day,' he 
found nothing that troubled him. Let every one then 
enter into an account with himself, and examine himself 
many times .on this point. And if it appears that you are 
not to-day in a state and condition to die, take care to 
put yourself in good condition for this final crisis. Reckon 
that you beg of the Lord to grant you a few days of life 
for this purpose, and that He does grant them, and profit 
by the time, and endeavour to live as if you were presently 
to die. Blessed is he who lives in t he disposition that he 
desires to be found in at the hour of d eath. T his is one 
of the most profitable things that we can preach to our 
neighbour, that they should live in such a disposition as 
they desire to be found in at the hour of death, and not 
7 • 


put off their conversion and repentance to the future, 
because to-morrow is uncertain, and who knows if you 
shall have to-morrow? " God, who has promised pardon 
to the sinner, if he repents," says St. Gregory, " has never 
promised him that he shall have to-morrow." Qui poenit- 
entibus veniam spopondit, crastinum diem non promisit. 
It is a common saying-, that nothing is more certain than 
death, nor more uncertain than the hour of death. 

But Christ our Redeemer says yet more. Be ye ready, 
says He, because the son of man will come at the hour 
ye think not (Luke xii. 40). For though He speaks in this 
place of the general Day of Judgment, yet this may be 
understood also of the hour of death, because then each 
one shall receive his particular judgment ; and such a 
sentence as, being once pronounced, will never be revoked, 
but confirmed at that great and general Day. Christ does 
not content Himself with saying the hour is uncertain, and 
that you know not when it will come, but He says it will 
come just when you least expect it, and perhaps when 
you are least of all prepared for it. St. Paul tells the 
Thessalonians that the Lord will come like a thief in the 
night (1 Thess. v. 2) ; and St. John in the Apocalypse, 
speaking in God's name, says, I will come to thee as a 
thief, and thou shalt not know at what hour I mean to 
come (Apoc. iii. 3). A thief gives no notice, but waits 
for the hour when all are least upon their guard, and even 
asleep. And along with this same comparison Christ our 
Redeemer teaches us how we should behave, to the end 
that death may not catch us on a sudden and off our guard. 
Know ye that if the father of the family knew at what 
hour the thief would come, he would surely watch, and 
would not suffer his house to be broken open (Luke 
xii. 39). If he knew the hour, it would be sufficient to 
be awake just then ; but because he cannot foresee the 
hour, or whether it will be in the beginning, towards the 
middle, or at the end of the night, he continually stands 
upon his guard to save himself from being robbed. Thus 
you must ever be watchful, for death will come at the 
hour you think not. 

It is a ve ry great mercy of God that th e hour of death 
should be un certain, to the end that we may always be 

CH. V 



prepared for it ; for if we knew the time, this assurance 
would give us occasion of great laxity and many sins. If, 
uncertain as we are of the hour of death, we live, notwith- 
standing, with so great negligence, what should we do if 
we were assured we should not die so soon ! Fool, says 
the Son of God to the rich, covetous man, this night they 
are requiring thy soul of thee, and what will become of 
those riches thou hast gathered together? (Luke xii. 20.) 

Now what we preach to others, we should take also to 
ourselves, as the Apostle warns us : What thou teachest 
to others, thou dost not teach thyself (Rom. ii. 21). One 
of the temptations the devil most commonly makes use of 
to deceive men is to hide as much as he can from them 
so clear a truth as this ; to divert their eyes and their 
thoughts from it, and make them believe that there's 
time enough for this world and the next, and that one day 
they will grow better, and live after another manner than 
they do now. But it is not only worldlings that he misleads 
after this manner, but he also deceives many Religious 
after the same fashion, persuading them to defer their 
spiritual advancement from one day to another, till they 
have done their studies, till they are out of this office and 
got this business off their hands : then I will get to 
rights my spiritual duties, and my penances and morti- 
fications. Unhappy you, if you die in your studies ! What 
will then the learning serve you, for which you have re- 
laxed your efforts after virtue, but as straw and wood, 
for you to burn the more in the next life ! (1 Cor. 
iii. 12). Let us then profit ourselves by what we say to 
others. Physician, cure thyself (Luke iv. 23). Apply 
this remedy to yourself also, since you have need of it. 


Of another means of doing our actions well, which is 
to take no account of anything beyond to-day 

The fifth means that will greatly aid and animate us to 
do ordinary things well and to perfection, is to take no 
account of anything further than the present day. And 
though, at first sight, this means seems not at all different 
from the last, yet it really does differ, as we shall see in 
the sequel. One of the things which is wont to discourage 
and enfeeble many in the way of virtue, and one of the 
temptations by which the devil works to this effect, is to 
put such reflections as these into their head : ' Can you 
manage to go on for so many years in such recollection, 
such punctuality, such exactness, mortifying yourself 
continually, checking your pace, denying your appe- 
tite, and setting aside your own will in all things?' The 
devil represents this as very difficult, and that it is not a 
life that can be carried on for such a long time. We read 
of our blessed Father Ignatius, that when he retired to 
Manresa, to do penance, amongst other temptations 
wherewith the devil assailed him this was one : ' Can you 
suffer a life so austere as this for the seventy years of life 
that still remain to you?' Against this temptation this 
means is directed. There is no question of many year s, 
nor of m any days, but only of to-day. It is a means very 
proportionable to our weakness. For one day, who will 
not animate and force himself to live well, and do all that 
in him lies that his actions may be well done? This is 
the means that our Father sets before us in the particular 
examen, where he bids us make our resolution from half- 
day to half-day. ' From now till dinner-time at least I 
propose to be modest in my gait, to keep silence, and 
practise patience.' In this way that becomes easy, which 
possibly might be too hard, if you took it absolutely : ' I 
propose never to talk, and always to go about with re- 
straint on myself, in great composure and recollection.' 

This was that means the monk made use of, of whom 



we read in the Lives of the Fathers, that being so much 
tempted to gluttony, that even at break of day he found 
himself ready to faint for hunger, yet he resolved not to 
break the holy custom of his Order by eating before three 
in the afternoon ; and to this end made use of this artifice. 
In the morning, talking to himself, he said : ' Hungry 
as thou art, is it much to wait till nine-o'clock? then thou 
mayest eat.' At nine o'clock, ' Verily,' said he, ' I 
ought in something to do violence to myself, and not eat 
till noon. As I have been able to wait till nine o'clock, 
so shall I be able till twelve ' ; and so he entertained him- 
self that time. At twelve, he put his bread in water, and 
said : ' While the bread soaks, I must wait till three 
o'clock as I have waited till this hour; and I will not for 
a gain of two or three hours break the monastic custom.' 
Three o'clock came, and he ate, after saying his prayers. 
This he did for many days, beguiling himself with these 
short terms, till one day, sitting down to eat at three 
o'clock, he saw a smoke rise out of the basket where he 
kept his bread, and go out by the window of his cell, 
which must have been the wicked spirit that tempted him. 
From this time forth he never felt those false fits of hunger 
and fainfness that he used to have : on the contrary, he 
had no trouble in, passing two days without eating. Thus 
our Lord rewarded ■ the victory he had gained over his 
enemy and the conflict that he had endured. 

But it is not without reason we said that this means 
was very proportionable to our weakness, for after all it 
treats us as men are wont to treat infirm and feeble folk, 
helping us on little by little, that the work may not frighten 
us. But if we were strong and fervent and had much 
love for God, it would not be necessary to help us on in 
this way, so . little by little, to hide from us the 
labour and difficulty ; since the true servant of God 
does not put before him the length of time or the number 
of years, but all time seems to him short to serve God, and 
all labour little, and so it is not necessary to help him on 
in this way, little by little. St. Bernard says this well. 
" The truly just man is not like the hireling or day- 
labourer, who binds himself to serve for one day or One 
month or for one year, but for ever without limit and 


without term he offers himself to serve God with hearty 
good will. For ever and aye I will never forget, Lord, 
thy law and thy commandments and counsels (Ps. i 18). 
And because he offers himself and determines to serve God 
absolutely and without limit, and does not fix a term, say- 
ing, ' for a year, or for three years I will do this,' there- 
fore his reward and recompense shall also be without 
limit for ever and aye. ' ' Non enim ad annum vel ad 
tempus instar mercenarii, sed in teternum divino se man- 
cipat famulatui. Non igitur ad tempus; proinde justitia 
ejus manet non aliquanto tempore, sed in smculum sceculi. 
Sempiterna igitur justi esuries sempiternam meretur re- 
fectionem. In this way St. Bernard explains the- saying 
of the Wise Man : Being made perfect in a short space, he 
fulfilled a long time (Wisdom iv. 13). The true just man 
in a short time and in a few days of life lives many years, 
because he loves God so much and has such a desire to 
serve Him, that if he lived a hundred years, or even a 
thousand, he would be ever busying himself in serving 
Him more and more. And for this desire and determina- 
tion it is as though he did live all that time in this manner, 
because God will reward him according to his desire and 
determination. These are. men of action, strong 
men, like Jacob, who for the great love that he bore 
Rachel thought it a little thing to serve for seven years 
and then for seven years more. All this time seemed to 
him short for the great, love he bore her (Gen. xxix. 20). 


Of another means to do our actions well, which is to 
get into a way of so doing them 

That fine old philosopher Pythagoras gave very good 
advice to his friends and disciples, how to be virtuous, 
and make to themselves the practice of virtue easy and 
sweet. Let every one, said he, choose a good course of 
life, and in the beginning not mind its seeming hard or 
painful, because custom will afterwards render it quite 
easy and agreeable. Behold here a very important means 


whereby to help ourselves, not so much because it comes 
from that philosopher, but because the Holy Ghost Him- 
self suggests the same, as we shall see afterwards, and 
because it is most proper to attain our end. We have 
already chosen an excellent way of living, or, to say better, 
the Lord has chosen one for us, because it is not you that 
have made choice of me, but it is I that have made choice 
of you (John xv. 16) ; blessed and glorified be He for ever 
for that. Notwithstanding, there may be a more or a less 
in this state of life in which God has put us ; for according 
to the works that you do therein you may become either 
a good or a tepid Religious. If then you desire to advance 
and gain perfection therein, accustom yourself to do all 
your duties well and perfectly ; accustom yourself to make 
your meditation well and your other spiritual duties ; ac-> 
custom yourself to be very exact in obedience and the 
observance of rules, and to make account of little things ; 
accustom yourself to recollection, to mortification and 
penance, to modesty and Silence; and do not leave off be- 
cause at the beginning you find some difficulty therein, 
because afterwards by custom it will become to you very 
sweet and pleasant, and you will feel that you can never 
sufficiently render thanks to God for having accustomed 
you thereto. 

The Holy Ghost teaches us this doctrine in many pass- 
ages of Holy Scripture. In Proverbs (iv. 11) He says : 
I will show thee the way of wisdom : I will teach thee to 
find a sweet savour in the knowledge of God, because this 
is the meaning of wisdom (sapientia) in Holy Scripture, 
says St. Bernard. Wisdom is savoury (sapida sapientia). 
Wisdom (sapiduria) is a savoury knowledge of God. I 
will teach thee then, he says, the way whereby thou mayest 
come to find savour and a sweet taste in the knowledge, 
love and service of God. I must take thee by the narrow 
paths of virtue,— he calls them narrow, because at th e 
beginning virtue is made dif ficult to us by our evil inclina- 
tion, and we think it a narrow path, — but after thou hast 
Passed these narrow entrances, thou shalt find the way 
very wide, roomy and to thy liking, and thou shalt run 
without tripping up or being brought to a standstill any- 
where (Prov. iv. 12). The Holy Ghost teaches us grace- 


fully by this metaphor that, though at the beginning we 
find difficulty in this way of virtue and perfection, we must 
not be alarmed at that, for afterwards we shall not only 
find no difficulty, but much relish, content and mirth, and 
shall come to say : / have laboured a little, and have found 
much rest to myself (Ecclus. li. 35). The same is repeated 
in Ecclus. vi. 20 : Thou shalt labour a little and presently 
shalt eat and enjoy the fruit of thy labour. The Apostle 
St. Paul also teaches us the same : Every training and 
every good exercise in the beginning appeareth difficult 
and painful and sad; but afterwards, as one groweth used 
to it, it not only becometh easy, but very pleasant and 
enjoyable (Heb. xii. 11). Thus we see in all the arts and 
sciences. How difficult is study when one first enters 
upon it ! How often is it necessary for one to be brought 
to it by force ! hence they say : " Letters draw blood at 
first entrance." But afterwards by practice, as one im- 
proves and learns, one develops such a taste as to find all 
one's entertainment and recreation in study. So it is in 
the way of virtue and perfection. St. Bernard declares 
this very well on those words of Job : The things that 
formerly my soul could not bear to touch, now of necessity 
have become my food (Job vi. 7), " How great is the 
effect of exercise and custom, and what power it has ! In 
the beginning you think a thing very difficult and insup- 
portable : but if you accustom yourself to it, it will not 
appear so difficult nor so burdensome as that : a little after 
you will think it light and easy, and feel it almost as 
nothing : a little after that you will not feel it at all ; and 
in a short time you will not only not feel it, but it will give 
you so much delight and contentment that you will be 
able to say with Job (vi. 7), as above." Primum tibi im- 
portabile videbitur aliquid; processu temporis, si assu- 
escas, judicabis non adeo grave ; paulo post et leve senties ; 
paulo post nec senties ; paulo post etiam delectabit. 

Thus it all goes according to the way in which one has 
got accustomed to act. The additions and instructions for 
meditation and examen are difficult for you to observe, 
because'you are little accustomed to do so. The reason 
why you find such difficulty in fixing your imagination, and 
hindering it from roaming where it would, upon awaking 




and in time of meditation, is because you never have done 
violence to it, nor accustomed it to recollection and re- 
straint, and not go thinking of anything but the matter of 
meditation. The reason why silence and recollection make 
you sad and melancholy is because you practise it little. 
Cella continuata dulcescit, et male custodita taedium gen- 
erate. " A quiet corner is sweet when you stay there, and 
wearisome when you are little used to it " (A Kempis) : 
get used and accustomed to it, and it will become pleasant 
and cheerful. Worldly people find prayer and fasting diffi- 
cult, because they are not accustomed to it. 

King Saul clad David in his armour, seeing that he was 
to fight with the Philistine; and as he was not used to 
bear such arms he could not walk under their weight, and 
gave them up : he afterwards got used to armour, and 
fought good battles in it. And what I say of virtue and 
goodness, I likewise say of vice, and evil. If you allow a 
bad habit to arise, the evil thing will grow and gather 
strength, and afterwards it will be very difficult to cure it, 
and so you will remain with it all your life. Oh, if from 
the beginning you had accustomed yourself to do things 
and do them well, how well off would you find yourself 
now, virtue and goodness having become to you so sweet 
and easy ! See how satisfied he is who has a good 
habit of not swearing, and with what ease and comfort 
he avoids so many mortal sins. Begin then to form a 
good habit from this hour, for better late than never. 
Take to heart the doing well of these ordinary actions 
that you do, since that goes for so much in you ; and apply 
thereto the particular examen, one of the best examens 
you can make, and in this manner it will become to you 
sweet and easy to do them well. 


Of how great importance it is for a Religious not to 
slow down in the way of virtue 

By all that we have said, it is easy to comprehend of 
how great consequence it is for a Religious to keep up his 
devotion, and always to go on with fervour in the 
exercises of Religion, and never let himself fall into 
tepidity and weakness, because afterwards it will be 
very hard for him to get out of it. God certainly 
can make you return afterwards to a life of fer- 
vour and perfection, but it will be a miracle and 
a prodigy. St. Bernard perfectly well treats this point, 
writing to Richard, Abbot of Fountains, and his Religious, 
in whom God had wrought this wonder, that whereas 
hitherto they had led a tepid and loose kind of life, God 
had now changed and brought them to great fervour and 
perfection ; whereat the Saint marvels and rejoices much 
and sends his congratulations : "The finger of God is here. 
Who will grant me to come over and see this marvel ? for a 
marvel it is, no less than that which Moses (Exod. iii. 2) 
beheld of the bush that burnt and was not consumed. It is 
a most rare and very extraordinary thing for anyone to ad- 
vance and raise himself afterwards beyond the level to 
which he has once settled down in Religion. It will be 
easier to find many seculars converted from a bad to a 
good life than to meet even one Religious passing from a 
tepid and lax life to a fervent and perfect one." Rarissima 
avis in terra est qui de gradu quern forte in Religione semel 
attigerit vel parum ascendat. And the reason of this is that 
persons in the world have not the remedies that their souls 
need, so constantly at hand as Religious have ; and so when 
they hear a good sermon, or see a neighbour and friend 
carried off by a sudden and unhappy death, the novelty of 
the thing causes in them alarm and astonishment, and 
moves them to amend and change their lives. But the 
Religious, who has these remedies so constantly at hand, 
such frequentation of Sacraments, so many spiritual ex- 


ch. viii 


hortations, such exercise in meditating- the things of God 
and dealing with death, judgment, hell and heaven, and 
for all that is tepid and slack, — what hope can there be of 
his changing his life ? His ears are inured to it, and so 
these considerations cannot aid or move him ; and what 
moves others does not move him nor make any impression 
on him. 

This is also the reason of that celebrated pronounce- 
ment of St. Augustine: " Since I have begun to serve 
God, as I have not known any better men than those who 
have done well in Religion, so I have not known worse than 
those who have fallen from it." Ex quo Deo servire coepi, 
quomodo difficile sum expertus meliores quam qui in tnon- 
asterio profecerunt, iia non sum expertus pejores quam qui 
in monasteriis ceciderunt. St. Bernard says that very few 
of those who have fallen and failed in Religion return to 
the state and degree that they held before, but rather go 
on getting worse. Over such, he says, the prophet Jeremy 
weeps : How has the purest gold lost its lustre, 
how has that colour so brilliant faded, how has 
that former beauty changed? They who were reared in 
purple and laid on costly couches, they who were regaled 
with Divine delights in prayer, and all their discourse and 
conversation was in heaven, have come to embrace dung 
and revel in mud and filth (Lam. iv. i, 5). 

Thus, ordinarily speaking, there is little hope of thos e 
who begin to go backwar d and take a turn for the worse 
in Relig ion, — a thing that" ought tTTlTtrTke great fear into 
us. And the reason is that which we have mentioned, 
since they fall sick under the very medicines and remedies 
under which they ought to improve and get well. But if 
that which improves and cures others only makes them 
sick and worse than they were, what hope can there be of 
doing them any good? When you find a sick man on 
whom medicines have no effect, but rather he feels worse 
for them, you may well take him for one undone. That 
is why we take so much account of sin and a fall in Reli- 
gious, and fear it so much, while we do not give so much 
thought to it in people of the world. When a physician 
sees a fainting-fit or a great feebleness of pulse in a sickly 
and weak subject, he is not much concerned ; but when 


he sees it in a robust and right healthy man, he takes it 
for a very bad symptom, because such a mischance cannot 
happen in that case without the predominance of some ma- 
lignant humour, prognosticating death or serious illness. 
So it is here : if a secular falls into sins, they are not mis- 
chances very inconsistent with the careless life of one who 
goes to confession once or twice a year, and lives in midst 
of so many occasions of sin : but in a Religious, sustained 
by such frequentation of Sacraments, so much prayer, so 
many pious exercises, when he comes to fall, it is a symp- 
tom of a great decay of virtue and a deep-seated infirmity, 
and there is reason to fear. 

But I do not say this, says St. Bernard, to drive you 
into discouragement, especially if you seek to rise im- 
mediately ; for the more you put it off, the harder it will 
become. I say this that ye may not sin, nor fall nor grow 
weak, but if anyone hath fallen, we have a good advocate 
in Jesus Christ (i John ii. i), who can do what we cannot 
do. Therefore let none be discouraged, since if he heartily 
returns to God, without doubt he will obtain mercy. If 
the Apostle St. Peter, having attended the school of Christ 
for so long a time, and been so much favoured by Him, 
fell so grievously, and after so grievous a fall as that of 
having denied his Master and Lord, returned to so lofty 
and eminent an estate, who will be discouraged? " You 
have sinned in the world," says St. Bernard, " was it more 
than St. Paul? You have sinned here in Religion : was 
it more than St. Peter?" But they, since they repented 
and did penance, not only gained pardon, but very high 
sanctity and perfection. Do you the like, and you will be 
able to return not only to your former state, but to much 
greater perfection. 


How important it is for novices to make progress 
during the time of their noviciate, and accustom 
themselves to do the exercises of Religion well 

This instruction for novices may also serve all those who 
are entering on the way of virtue. The first rule of the 
Master of Novices in our Society says the thing well- in a 
few words, which are addressed not to us only, but to all 
Religious. " Let the Master of Novices understand well 
that he has given over to his charge a thing of the highest 
importance. " And the rule gives two very solid reasons 
to make the Master of Novices open his eyes and under- 
stand the weightiness and importance of his charge. The 
first is, that on this first training and formation of the 
novices there usually depends all their future progress. 
The second is, that all the hope of the Society pivots on 
this, and on this depends the well-being, of the Order. 
Coming down to explain these things more in particular, 
I say first that on this first training given, and the attitude 
taken up by each novice in his noviciate, depends all 
growth or decay for the time to come. Commonly speak- 
ing, as we said in the last chapter, if in the time of 
his noviciate an individual is tepid and careless of his spiri- 
tual progress, tepid and careless he will remain. It is not 
to be supposed that afterwards he will act with greater care 
and fervour : there is no reason to believe that he will 
effect this change and improvement afterwards, but very 
much reason to believe that he will not. 

To make this better appear, let us address our discourse 
to the novice himself, weighing the reasons and con- 
vincing him therewith. Now you are in your noviceship, 
you have a great deal of time to apply to your spiritual 
advancement, and different means that may contribute 
thereto, your Superiors thinking of nothing else but this, 
and making it their chief endeavour. Now you have 
many examples before your eyes of others who are bent 
on no other purpose than this. It is a thing that animates 



and encourages one much, to live with companions who 
have in view this object alone and nothing else; and the 
sight of others going ahead obliges one, however heavy 
and lumpish he be, to get out of his sloth. Now you have 
a heart disengaged and free, and seemingly desirous of 
virtue, with nothing to withdraw you from it, but much to 
aid you. But if now that you are here for this purpose 
alone, and have nothing else to think of, you do not im- 
prove nor gain any virtue, how will it be when your heart 
is taken up and divided in a thousand different ways? If 
now with so much freedom from business, such advan- 
tages and aids at hand, so much leisure, such conveniences, 
arid so many helps, you make not your meditation and 
examen well, nor take pains to observe your Additions, 
and do your other spiritual duties properly, what will be- 
come of you when the care of your studies shall take up 
your thoughts, and in later life, business, confessions and 
sermons? If with so many conferences, so many exhor- 
tations, so many examples, and so many solicitations, you 
do not profit, what will become of you when you shall meet 
with impediments and obstacles on all sides? If, in the 
beginning of your conversion, when novelty should in- 
crease your fervour and zeal, you are, notwithstanding, 
slack and listless, what will become of you when your ears 
shall be inured and hardened to all things that may touch 
or do you any good? And further, if now while passion 
is but beginning to stir, and the evil inclination is not 
strong, being only at its commencements, still you have 
not the courage to resist it, how will you resist and over- 
come it afterwards, when it shall have taken deep root, 
and gathered strength by habit, so that it will be like a 
very death-struggle for you to change it? 

St. Dorotheus illustrated this very well by an example 
which he recounts of one of the Fathers of the Desert, 
who, being one day in a place full of cypresses, of all sorts, 
great and small and of medium size, bade one of his dis- 
ciples pluck up a little one he pointed at, which his disciple 
presently did without any difficulty. Then he pointed to 
another, somewhat bigger, and said to him, ' Pull up that. ' 
He did pull it up but with greater difficulty, being forced 
to take both hands to it. To pluck another, he had to call 

ch. ix 



in the help of one of his companions. Another was be- 
yond the strength of all of them together to pull it up. 
" Behold," said the ancient Father, " how it is with our 
passions. In the beginning, when they are not yet rooted, 
it is easy to master them, if you take but never so little 
pains. But afterwards, when by long habit they have 
taken deeper root, it will be. very hard; much force will 
have to be used, and I do not know if you will succeed." 

By what I have said, we may perceive that it is a very 
grave abuse, and a very dangerous temptation, to defer 
from day to day our amend ment, thinking we shall be 
better able to m ortify and overcome ourselves another time, 
because at present we have not the courage to do it by rea- 
son of the difficulty we experience. If, whilst this difficulty 
is yet small, you cannot bring yourself to surmount it, what 
will you be able to do when it shall become greater ? And 
if at present, whilst your passion is but like a lion's whelp, 
you have not the courage to attack it, how will you be 
able to do it when it shall be grown a great and furious 
beast? Hold it therefore for a certain truth that if now 
you are tepid and remiss, tepid and remiss you will be in 
the time to come. If now you are not a good novice and 
a good apprentice, you will never hereafter be a good 
senior, nor a good workman. If at present you are neg- 
lectful of obedience and the observance of rules, you will 
be more so afterwards. If now you are careless over 
your spiritual duties and botch them, a botcher you will 
remain all your life. The whole point lies in the estab- 
lished attitude which you take up now. They say that the 
business of kneading dough lies in the first putting in of 
the yeast. 

St, Bonaventure says : In the attitude which one takes 
up at the beginning, in that he remains. It is very diffi- 
cult for an old man to bend himself to that which he was 
not accustomed to in his youth. It is a proverb of the 
Holy Ghost : A proverb it is, says Solomon, train a youth 
to go one way, and when he is old he will not depart 
from it (Prov. xxii. 6). Hence St. John Climacus came to 
say that it is a very dangerous thing and matter of much 
apprehension, when one enters on his course with tepidity 
and faint-heartedness, because, he says, it is a clear indica- 



tion of a fall to come. For this reason it is of supreme 
importance to accustom oneself to virtue from the outset, 
and do one's spiritual duties well. The Holy Ghost warns 
us of this by the prophet Jeremy : It is a good thing for a 
man to accustom himself to bear the yoke from his youth 
(Lam. iii. 27) : because he will hold to it afterwards, and 
thereby render to himself the way of virtue and goodness 
easy : otherwise he will find it very difficult. What thou 
hast not gathered in the time of youth, how thinkest thou 
that thou shalt find it afterwards in the time of old age? 
(Ecclus. xxv. 5). 

From this first reason follows the second, because if all 
the progress of a Religious in future depends on his first 
formation, then all the good of the Order depends likewise 
thereon : for an Order does not consist of the walls of its 
houses and churches, but of the Religious there gathered 
together, and they who are in the noviceship are they who 
have to be afterwards the whole Order. For this reason the 
Society was not satisfied with establishing seminaries and 
colleges, where Ours are reared in letters and virtue to- 
gether, but has established seminaries of virtue alone, where 
attention is paid to abnegation and mortification of self, and 
to the practice of true and solid virtues, as being more of a 
main foundation than letters. For this the houses of proba- 
tion exist, being, as our Father Francis Borgia says, for the 
novices a Bethlehem, that is to say, ' the house of bread,' 
because there are made the biscuit and provisions for the 
voyage, against the great risks that await us. This is 
harvest-time, this the season of abundance, these are 
the years of fertility, in which your business is to take in 
supplies, as Joseph did, against coming years of hunger 
and sterility. Oh, if the people of Egypt had understood, 
and cast up their account, and carefully considered what 
they were doing, they would not have been in such a hurry 
to empty their houses of the wheat which Joseph was 
gathering and locking up in his barns ! Oh, if you would 
take account how important it is for you to come out well 
provisioned from the house of probation, certainly you 
would not be eager to get out of it quickly, but would 
grieve at leaving it, considering how ill you are off for 
virtue and mortification. And therefore Father Francis 




Borgia says that such as aim or are glad at shortly going 
out of the noviciate show signs of want of judgment and 
lack of understanding of their need of good preparation : 
they make light of the day's work that is before them, since 
they so lightly take the risk of rushing into it unprovided. 

Oh how rich and laden with virtues does our Father 
take us to be, when we are to leave the house of proba- 
tion ! So he supposes in the Constitutions. He ap- 
points two years of probation and experiment, wish- 
ing the novice during that time to think of nothing 
else but his spiritual advancement, seeing no other books 
and studying nothing else but what may forward" him in 
self-denial and growth in virtue and perfection. He is 
supposed to go out at the end of that time so spiritual and. 
fervent, such a lover of mortification and recollection, so 
devoted to prayer and spiritual exercises as to need even 
to be restrained therein. He therefore advises such per- 
sons, when they go to the colleges, to abate somewhat of 
their fits of fervour during the time of their studies, not to 
make such long prayers nor do so many mortifications. 
Our Father supposes one to leave the noviceship with so 
much light, so much knowledge of God and contempt of 
the world, so fervent and devout and inwardly carried to 
spiritual things, as to need to be checked in his pace by 
these cautions. Do you then endeavour to go out such. 
Make the most of this time, so precious that perchanc e 
never in your life will yo u have such a time again for 
gathe ring spiritu al riches. Let not so good time pass in 
vain, nor lose any part of it (Ecclus. xiv. 14). 

One of the great favours that the Lord does to those 
whom He draws to Religion in their tender age, a favour 
for which they owe Him infinite thanks, is that it is then 
very easy for them to apply themselves to virtue and Reli- 
gious discipline. A tree, while it is tender at the beginning, 
may be easily shaped so as to grow into a very beautiful 
tree. But afterwards, when you have let it grow in its 
own way, and become crooked and awkwardly spreading, 
you will break sooner than guide it into the shape you 
want ; and such it will remain as long as there is life left 
in it. So it is easy to shape and direct one of tender age, 
and turn him to what is good ; and by accustoming him to 


it from the time that he is small it will be rendered very 
easy for him afterwards, and so he will go on and ever 
persevere in it. It is a great thing for stuff to be dyed 
in the wool, because then it never loses its colour. Who 
can restore to its whiteness, says St. Jerome, the wool 
that has drunk in a purple dye? And another says : " An 
earthern jar long retains the odour of the first liquor poured 
into it." The Scripture praises King Josiah for that, 
■when yet a boy, he began to seek the God of his father 
David (2 Chron. xxxiv. 3). 

Humbertus, a person of note, and Master General of the 
Order of Preachers, relates that a certain Religious ap- 
peared some nights after his death to another Religious, 
his companion, all in glory ; and, leading him out of his cell, 
he showed him a great number of men, clad in white and 
encompassed with light, who carried very fair crosses upon 
their shoulders, as they went in procession towards heaven. 
A little after, he beheld another procession, fairer and 
more resplendent than the former, each member of which 
carried a far richer and a more beautiful cross in his 
hands, and not on his shoulders as the former did. After 
that, a third procession passed, still more glorious and ad- 
mirable than the two former, for all their crosses were of 
a surprising beauty, and they carried them neither on their 
shoulders nor in their hands, but an angel going before 
each carried his cross for him, so that they followed with 
much alacrity and joy. The Religious, astonished at this 
vision, asked an explanation. His companion answered 
that the first, who carried their crosses upon their 
shoulders were those who had entered Religion at a mature 
age ; the second, who held their crosses in their hands, were 
those that entered in early youth, and the last, who 
marched with so much freedom and cheerfulness, were 
those who when they were small children had renounced 
the world and embraced a Religious life. 




That in our actions we ought to shun the vice of 

One of the thing's most recommended and repeated in 
our Constitutions and Rules is to keep a right intention in 
all our actions, seeking in them ever the will "of God, and 
His greater glory. At every step our Rules repeat to us ^ ^ 
these words : ' to the greater glory of God,' or ' looking 
ever to the greater service of God,' which is the same thing. 
Our blessed Father had so engraven on his heart this 
desire of the greater glory and honour of God, and was 
so used to the practice of doing all things for this end, 
that thence he came to bring it out and utter it so 
frequently. From the abundance of the heart the words 
come forth (Luke vi. 45). This was ever as it were his 
coat-of-arms, and the soul and life of all his actions. With 
much reason do they put on his pictures this lettering, 
A.M.D.G., Ad majorem Dei gloriam, ' to the greater glory 
of God.' These are his arms, this his motto and coat : 
this is the summary of his life and exploits. Such also 
ought to be our arms, our motto and coat, that as good 
children we may resemble our Father. 

With reason does he inculcate this so forcibly upon us, 
since all our progress and perfection turns on the actions 
which we do, a n d the better they are and the more perfect, 
the better and more perfect shall w e ourselves be. But 
our actions will be more fraught with goodness and per- 
fection in proportion as pur intention is more right and 
pure, and our end and aim higher and more perfect, for 




tr. iii 

this it is that gives life and being to our works, according 
to the text of the Holy Gospel : The light of thy body is 
thine eye: if thine eye be pure and simple, all thy body 
will be bright and lightsome ; but if it be evil and double- 
minded, all thy body will be dark and in the shade (Matt, 
vi. 22). By the eye the Saints understand the intention, 
which sees and first forestalls what it seeks ; and by the 
body they understand the action, which follows the inten- 
tion as the whole body follows the eyes. Christ our Re- 
deemer then says that what gives light and brightness to 
our actions is the intention, and so, if the end and inten- 
tion of the action is good, the action will be good, and if 
evil, evil ; and if the end be high and perfect, the action 
will be so likewise. 

It is this also which the Apostle St. Paul says : If the 
root be holy, so too are the branches (Rom. xi. 16). As 
is the root, so will be the tree and the fruit thereof. Of a 
tree the root of which is injured what can be expected but 
unpleasant and sour and worm-eaten fruit? But if the 
root is healthy and good, the tree will be good and bear 
good fruit. So in actions the goodness and perfection 
thereof lies in the intention, which is the root. And to the 
same effect it is said that the purer they are, the better 
and more perfect they will be. St. Gregory on that text of 
Job, Whereon are its supports firmly fixed? (Job xxxviii.6), 
says that whereas the whole structure of a material build- 
ing rests on certain pillars, and the pillars on their bases 
and pedestals, so the whole spiritual life rests on the vir - 
tues, and the virtues are founded on the right and pure 
intention of the heart. 

But to proceed with this subject in an orderly manner, 
we will speak first of the evil end which we have to shun 
in our actions, not doing them for vainglory or for other 
human considerations, and then we will speak of the right 
and pure intention which we ought to have, because the 
first thing to do must be to withdraw from evil, and after 
that to do good, according to those words of the Prophet : 
Depart from evil, and do good (Ps. 33). 

All the Saints admonish us to be much on our guard 
against vainglory, because, say they, it is a cunning thief 
which often steals from us even our best actions, and 


insinuates itself so secretly that it has even robbed and 
despoiled us before we perceive it. St. Gregory says that 
vainglory is like a robber in disguise, who joins 
the company of a traveller, pretending to go the 
same way that he goes, and afterwards robs and 
murders him when he is least upon his guard and thinks 
himself in perfect security. " I confess," says the Saint, 
in the last chapter of his Moralia, " that when I go about 
to examine my own intention in writing these books, me- 
thinks my sole aim is to please God therein; but, notwith- 
standing, when I am off my guard, t find that some desire 
of satisfying and pleasing men intermixes itself, and some 
vain self-complacency. I know not how nor in what 
manner, but after some time I come to see that this 
process goes not in its later course so free from dust and 
chaff as it was when I began. I know I began with a good 
intention and desire simply of pleasing God, but since then 
I see it is not so pure as it was. The same thing happens 
here as in eating : we begin to eat of necessity, and glutton- 
ous delight steals over us so subtly, that what we began 
of necessity to sustain nature and preserve life, we continue 
and conclude for the mere pleasure of the palate." Thus 
here in Religion we often take up the duty of preaching 
and the like for the advancement and profit of souls ; and 
then vanity gains an entrance, arid we desire to please and 
satisfy men and to be taken notice of and esteemed ; and 
when things fall out otherwise, our wings visibly droop, 
and we do the work with a bad grace. 


In what the malice of vainglory consists 

The malice of this vice consists in this ; that the vain- 
glorious man endeavours to walk off with the glory and 
honour that belongs to God alone, according to the words 
of St. Paul, To God alone be honour and glory (1 Tim. 
i. 17), which He has no mind to give to another, but re- 
serves to Himself. I will not give my glory to another 
(Isai. xlii. 8). So St. Augustine says: " Lord, he who 
would be praised for Thy gifts, and seeks not Thy glory 



tr. iii 

but his own in the good he does, is a robber, he is like the 
devil himself, who endeavoured to rob Thee of Thy glory. " 
In all the works of God, there are two things ; there is the 
profit, and there is the honour and glory thence resulting, 
which consists in the doer of the work being praised, es- 
teemed and honoured for it. Now God has ordained in this 
life, and wishes it to be so carried out, that all the profit of 
His works should go to man, but al l the glory should befor 
God Himself. God hath wrought all things for himself 
(Prov. xvi. 4) for his praise and glory and honour (Deut. 
xxvi. 19). And all things preach to us His wisdom, good- 
ness and providence, and therefore it is said that the hea- 
vens and earth are full of his glory (Ps. 18 : Isai. vi. 3). 
Thus when in your good actions you seek the glory and 
honour of men for yourself, you pervert the order which 
God has established in good works, and do an injury 
to God, seeking and endeavouring that men, who 
should ever be occupied in honouring and praising 
God, should be taken up with praising and esteem- 
ing you, — seeking that the hearts of men, which 
God has made as vessels to be full of His own honour and 
glory, should be full of your honour and glory and high 
renown, which is tantamount to stealing away those hearts 
from God, and, as it were, casting God out of His own 
house and home. What greater evil can there be tha n to 
steal away God's honour and glory and the hearts of men? 
With your mouth you bid them look to God, but at heart 
you wish them to turn their eyes away from God and fix 
them on you. The truly humble man has no wish to live 
in the heart of any creature, but in that of God alone ; 
he would not have anyone take thought of him, but of God 
alone, nor busy himself about him, but about God, and 
that Him alone all men should lodge and keep in their 

The malice of this sin may be further gathered from this 
example and comparison. A married woman would clearly 
be doing her husband wrong, if she were to dress and 
adorn herself to please any other man but him. Good 
works being the apparel wherewith we adorn and array 
our soul, we do God great wrong, if we put them on to 
please anyone but God, who is the Spouse of our soul. 

CH. Ill 



Or again, see what a foul shame it would be for a knight 
to plume himself much on the score of some slight labour 
undertaken for the love and service of his. Prince, when 
that Prince had first exposed himself to great affronts and 
labours on behalf of that same knight! What bad form 
it would be for that knight to boast and brag of some 
petty service, a mere nothing, that he had rendered his 
Master ! What a sorry figure he would cut before all the 
company \ And what if the Prince had done and under- 
gone all that hard work without any help from the knight, 
while the knight was indebted to the Prince's aid and 
countenance for the little that he had done, for which more- 
over he had been promised and had received high reward ! 
All this we may apply each one of us to himself, to make 
us ashamed of having a high conceit of ourselves for any- 
thing we have done for God, still more of boasting of it, 
since in comparison with what God has done for us, and 
we ought to do for Him, it is miserably little. 

The malice of this sin further appears in this, that theo- 
logians and Saints reckon it among the seven vices com- 
monly called deadly, or more properly capital, because 
they are the heads and principles of the rest. Some enu- 
merate eight capital vices, and say that the first is pride, 
and the second vainglory, but the common opinion of the 
Saints, and that received in the Church, puts seven capital 
vices.; and St. Thomas says that the first of these is vain- 
glory, and that pride is the root of them all, according to 
the Wise Man : the beginning of all sin is pride (Ecclus. 


Of the loss that vainglory entails 

Christ our Lord clearly warns us in these words of the 
Gospel : Take care not to do your good works before men, 
or to be seen and praised by them; otherwise, ye shall 
have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. Be 
not as those hypocritical Pharisees, who do all their works 
to be seen by men and honoured and esteemed by them. 
In truth I tell you, these have already received their reward 



TR. Ill 

j(Matt. vi. i, 2). You had a desire to be regarded and 
esteemed : that moved you to do what you did ; but that 
J also shall be your reward and crown ; expect none other 
]in the next life. Unhappy you, you have already received 
jyour wages and have nothing further to hope for ! The 
hope of the hypocrite shall perish,, says holy Job (viii. 13), 
the hypocrite being he who does things to be regarded and 
praised. St. Gregory shows this very well : human esteem 
and praise was what the man desired, and that shall 
end with his life. The fool shall find no pleasure in his folly 
(Job viii. 14). Oh what a mockery and deceit shall you 
find when your eyes are opened, and you see that with that 
wherewith you might have gained the kingdom of heaven, 
you have gained only a vain applause of men, a ' Well 
said,' or a ' Well done.' He who seeks the esteem and 
praises of men in payment of his virtuous acts, offers fo r 
sale at a low price a thing of high value : for that whereby 
he might have merited the kingdom of heaven, he seeks an 
idle praise. What greater delusion and what greater folly 
can there be than this, to have worked hard, done many 
good works, and find yourself afterwards left with noth- 
ing ! This is what the prophet Aggeus says : Advert and 
see what ye are doing in this matter. Ye have sown much, 
and have reaped little; ye have eaten, and not been filled; 
ye have drunk and not quenched your thirst; ye have 
clothed yourselves, and not got warm; all that ye do hath 
profited you nothing, because ye put it into a sack full of 
holes, so that ye have scarce put it in on one side than it 
goes out on the other (Agg. i. 5, 6). Another text says : 
He who gathereth riches is as one who pours wine into a 
cask or barrel full of chinks and holes, so that to pour it 
in and pour it out is one and the same thing. This is the 
doing of vainglory : to gain and to lose is one and the same 
thing ; the loss is conjoined with the gain. Why do ye 
give your silver for what is not bread, and spend your 
labour on what cannot satisfy your hunger? (Isai. lv. 2.) 
Now that you do things, now that you labour and weary 
yourself, do the things in such a way that you may get 
some return from them, and not lose them entirely. 

St. Basil gathers three losses th at this vice of v ainglor y 
entails upon us. The first is that Tt*makes us weary and 

ch. iii 



afflict our body with labour and good works. The second, 
>"that it robs us of these good works after they are done, 
making us lose all the reward and recompense of them. It 
does not keep us from working, says St. Basil, — that were 
no such great loss, to rob us of a reward we had not 
worked for; but it ensures pur wearying ourselves 
in doing good works, and then robs and despoils us of 
them, depriving us of the reward. It is, he says, like a 
pirate that lurks in ambush, watching for a ship to come 
out of harbour well-laden with merchandise, and then 
delivers his attack. It is not the way of pirates to chase 
a vessel when she comes out of harbour empty to go for 
a cargo of merchandise : they wait till she returns with her 
cargo : so this robber, called vainglory, waits till we are 
laden with good works, and then assaults and despoils us 
of them. -yf 

Further, it not only deprives us of the reward, but makes 
us deserve chastisement and torment instead thereof : it 
converts good into evil and virtue into vice by the vain 
and evil end that it sets before us. And thus of good seed 
there is reaped an evil crop, and pain and chastisement is 
merited by that whereby we might have merited heaven? 
And all this vainglorydoes so sweetly and pleasantly, that 
the man not only does not feel his losing, as he does lose, 
all that he does, but actually enjoys it, so much so that, 
however much you tell him, and he sees it himself, that he 
is losing all, nevertheless he seems bewitched by this desire 
of being praised and esteemed, inasmuch as it quite carries 
him away. Therefore St. Basil calls vainglory " a gentle 
despoiler of our spiritual gifts and a pleasant enemy of 
our souls," dulcem spiritualium opum exspoliatricem, ju- 
cundum animarum nostrarum hostem. It is a very endear- 
ing enemy, it is a pleasant impoverisher. Thus it is, says 
the Saint, that this vice infatuates so many by the sweet- 
ness and pleasantness that it carries with it. This human 
praise, he says, is a thing very sweet and delicious to 
simpletons, and thereby it infatuates them. Dulee quid 
humana imperitis gloria est. And St. Bernard says : 
" Fear this arrow of vainglory, it enters pleasantly and 
seems a light thing, but I tell you of a truth it inflicts no 
slight wound on the heart." Time sagittam, leviter volat, 



TR. Ill 

leviter penetrat, sed dico tibi non leve infligit vulnus, cito 
interficit. Like corrosive sublimate, it is a small powder, 
but deadly poison. 

Surius relates how when the great Pacomius was staying 
in a certain place of the monastery with other grave 
Fathers, one of his monks brought out two little mats 
that he had made that day, and put them hard by his cell, 
in front of where St. Pacomius was, that he might see 
them, thinking that he must surely praise him for being so 
industrious and careful, inasmuch as while the Rule only 
ordered him to make one mat a day, he had made two. 
The Saint, understanding that he had done this out of 
vanity, heaving a great sigh, said to the Fathers who were 
with him : " See how this brother has worked from morn- 
ing to night, and all his labour he has offered to the devil, 
and has loved rather the esteem of men than the glory of 
God." He called the monk, and gave him a good scold- 
ing, and enjoined him for penance that, when the monks 
should assemble for prayer, he should go there wearing 
his two mats, and say in a loud voice : " Fathers and 
brothers, for the love of the Lord do you all pray for this 
wretched sinner, that He may have mercy on him for hav- 
ing set more store by these two little mats than by the 
kingdom of heaven. " And he further enjoined that, when 
the monks were at dinner, he should stand in like manner 
in the middle of the refectory likewise wearing his mats, all 
the time that the meal lasted. And his penance did not 
stop there : after that was done, the Abbot ordered that 
they should shut him up in a cell, and nobody was to 
visit him, but he was to be there alone for the space of 
five months, and they were to give him nothing to eat but 
bread, salt and water, and every day he was to make two 
mats, there by himself, unsee.n and fasting. Hence we may 
learn for our instruction what severe penances those 
ancient Fathers gave for slight faults, and the humility and 
patience wherewith their subjects took them and profited 


That the temptation to vainglory assails not only 
beginners, but also those who are well-advanced in 


St. Cyprian, speaking- of the second temptation with 
which the devil assailed Christ our Lord, when he took 
Him to the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him ; // 
thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down (Matt. iv. 6), 
exclaims, " O execrable malice of the devil, the malignant 
fiend thought to overcome by vainglory Him whom he had 
not conquered by gluttony!" He wanted Him to fly 
through the air, to be a spectacle of admiration to all the 
people. He thought to succeed with Him as he had with 
others. He knew by experience, and had proved it many 
times, that he had overcome by the temptation of vain- 
glory and pride those whom he had not been able to over- 
come by other temptations, vainglory being a harder thing 
to overcome than gluttony. It is hard not to take delight~\ 
in hearing oneself praised. As there are few who like to I 
hear themselves ill-spoken of, so there are very few who r 
do not take satisfaction in others thinking and speaking [ 
weli of them. Hence we see that this temptation of vaxn-J 
glory touches not beginners and novices alone, but even 
the most ancient in Religion, men well versed in perfec- 
tion : indeed it is more properly their temptation. 

The holy Abbot Nilus, who was a disciple of St. John 
Chrysostom, relates of those old and experienced Fathers 
that they brought up and instructed novices differently 
from seniors. On novices they enjoined great attention 
to temperance and abstinence, because they said that he 
who lets himself be carried away and overcome by the vice 
of gluttony will easily be vanquished by the vice of lust ; 
for how shall he resist the greater enemy, who does not 
know how to stand out against the less ? But the seniors 
they advised to be very watchful to defend and guard 
themselves against vainglory and pride, as seamen have 
to take precaution against sunken rocks at the mouth of 


I2 4 


tr. iii 

the harbour. It often happens that after a prosperous 
voyage vessels come to shipwreck in the harbour ; in like 
manner many, who have voyaged well through the whole 
course of their life, overcoming and mastering all the temp- 
tations they met with, at the end, when nearing the har- 
bour, confident in their past victories and taking them- 
selves to be secure, have waxed proud and careless, and so 
come to a miserable fall ; and the vessel that had not sprung 
a leak, nor in any way behaved ill on so long a voyage in 
the open sea, has come to mishap and shipwreck in port. 
That is the doing of vainglory, and so the Saints call it a 
storm in harbour : others compare it to one who goes on 
board a ship, well-provisioned and laden with merchandise, 
and scuttles and sinks it. 

Therefore those ancient Fathers did not instruct be- 
ginners and novices to be on their guard against vainglory, 
because they thought it was not necessary. Just come in 
from the world, running with blood, and with the wounds 
of their former sins still unclosed, beginners carry with 
them matter enow of humility and confusion; to these 
their instructors preached abstinence, penance and morti- 
fication. It was the seniors, who had deeply bewailed and 
lamented their sins, and done much penance for them, 
and had had long exercise in the practice of virtue, that 
needed these warnings against vainglory. But as for 
beginners, who were void of virtue, and full of passions 
and evil inclinations, and who had not yet done with duly 
lamenting their sins and their past forgetfulness of God, 
these gave no ground for attacks of vainglory, but much 
for sorrow and shame. That treatment was quite right. 
Hence they may gather occasion of great confusion, who 
having many things to humble themselves for, yet for one 
point in which they shine and think they do very well, 
vaunt themselves and gives themselves airs. Here we 
are much mistaken : one single defect ought to be enough 
to confound and humble us ; since for a good state of things 
it is requisite that nothing be wrong, but one point out of 
order makes a bad state of things. But we go the other way 
about : all the many faults and defects we have are not 
enough to humble us, but one good point that we fancy 
we find in ourselves is enough to make us proud, and 


desire to be honoured and esteemed on the strength of that. 
Herein well appears the malice and subtlety of vainglory, 
since it lets nobody off, but assails people who present 
no grounds for it. As St. Bernard says, " It is the first 
sin we fall into, and the last we overcome." Therefore, 
brethren, says St. Augustine, let us all arm ourselves and 
forestall the attacks of this vice, as did the prophet David, 
saying : Turn away my eyes that they behold not vanity 
(Ps. 118). 


Of the special need that there is to beware of the vice 
of vainglory in those who have the office of helping 
their neighbour 

Although, as we have said, all need to be watchful 
against this temptation of vainglory, yet we whose office 
it is by our Institute to help to the salvation of souls, need 
more particularly to be forearmed against it. For our 
ministries are very exalted, and open and manifest to the 
whole world ; and the greater and more spiritual they are, 
so much greater on the one hand is our danger, and the 
greater our offence on the other, if we seek ourselves there- 
in, and want to be regarded and esteemed by men. This 
would be exalting ourselves with that which God most 
prizes and esteems, namely His graces and spiritual gifts. 
So St. Bernard says : " Woe be to them to whom it has 
been given to conceive and speak well of God and spiritual 
things, and understand the Scriptures and preach elo- 
quently, if that gift which has been given them to gain 
souls and extend and spread the honour and glory of God, 
they turn to the purpose of seeking themselves and being 
regarded and esteemed by men ! ' ' Let them fear and 
tremble at what God says by the prophet Osee : I have 
trusted them with my riches, I have given them my silver 
and gold and the precious jewels that I most valued, and 
they have made of them an idol of Baal (Osee ii. 8), an idol 
of vanity and worldly honour. Vae qui bene de Deo et 
sentire et loqui acceperunt, si quaestum aettimant piet- 



tr. iii 

atetn, si convertant ad inanem gloriam quod ad lucrum 
Dei acceperunt erogandum, si alta sapientes humilibus 
non consentiant. 

St. Gregory applies to this purpose what St. Paul says to 
the Corinthians : Let us not be as many who adulterate the 
■word of God (2 Cor. ii. 17). He gives two explanations 
of this passage. The first is when one understands and 
explains Holy Scripture in another manner than what it 
really means, engendering and extracting therefrom by 
one's own spirit false and adulterous senses, the lawful 
husband and author thereof being the Holy Ghost, and the 
true and lawful sense that which He has declared to His 
Church through her Saints and Doctors. The second 
explanation of adulterating the word of God is what makes 
to our purpose. There is this difference between the true 
and lawful husband and the adulterer, that the former 
intends to beget and have children, while the latter intends 
only his own lust and satisfaction. In the same way, he 
who by the word of God and the office of preaching which 
he holds does not intend so much to beget spiritual chil- 
dren to God,— which is the end for which preaching 
is ordained, according to the saying of St. Paul, I have 
begotten you by the gospel (1 Cor. iv. 15), — as his own 
gratification and satisfaction, seeking to be regarded and 
esteemed, such a one adulterates the word of God. And 
therefore also the Saints call vainglory a spiritual lust, fo r 
the great delight that is taken in it, greater than the 
other carnal delight and lust as the soul is greate r than 
the body. Let us not then adulterate the word of God, 
let us not in our ministries aim at anything else than the 
honour and glory of His Divine Majesty, according to what 
Christ our Redeemer says : I seek not my own glory, but 
the honour and glory of my heavenly Father (John viii. 50). 

Holy Scripture relates an action of Joab, Captain- 
General of the army of David, an action worthy of being 
recounted and imitated by us. It says that Joab with his 
army was besieging the city of Rabath, the capital city of 
the Ammonites, where their king resided with his court. 
When he was pushing the siege with advantage, and was 
on the point of entering and taking the city, he dispatched 
couriers to King David letting him know how the matter REMEDIES FOR VAINGLORY 


stood, that he might come and enter and take it. And he 
gives this reason : that the honour of the victory may not 
be attributed to me, if I enter and take it (2 Kings xii. 
28); and so it was done. This is the loyalty that we 
should observe with God in all our ministries, never seek- 
ing to have the fruit and conversion of souls, or the good, 
success of enterprises, attributed to us, but all to God. 
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to thy name give glory 
(Ps. 113). All the glory should be given to God who is in 
heaven, as the angels sang : Glory be to God on high 
(Luke ii. 14). 

Of St. Thomas of Aquin we read in his Life that never 
in his career had he any vainglory amounting to a fault. 
He never took any complacency or satisfaction in the great 
learning and angelic understanding and other gifts and 
graces that God gave him. And of our blessed Father 
Ignatius we read that for many years before he died he 
never had so much as a temptation to vainglory. So illum- 
inated was' his soul by light from heaven, and so great 
his knowledge and contempt of himself, that he used to 
say there was no vice that he feared less than vainglory. 
There is the model that we should imitate : we should 
blush and be ashamed when we allow vanity to arise in us 
even in little things. How would you be if you saw 
yourself a great Doctor and Preacher, gaining great fruit 
of souls, and highly valued by princes and prelates and 
all the world? We need to accustom ourselves in small 
things to make no account of the praises and esteem of - 
men, nor regard human considerations, that so we may 
be competent to do the same in great things. ' 


Of sundry remedies against vainglory 

St. Bernard in his fourteenth sermon on the psalm 
Qui habitat, on that verse, Thou shalt walk upon serpents 
and basilisks, and trample underfoot lions and dragons, 
declares at length how some of these animals do hurt 
with their teeth biting, others with their breath, others 



tr. iii 

with their claws, others terrify by their roaring, so the 
devil invisibly does hurt and make mischief for men in all 
these ways ; and he applies the properties of these animals 
to various temptations and vices whereby the devil makes 
war on us. Coming to the basilisk he says : " Of the basi- 
lisk there is told a portentous thing, that by his mere look 
he infects men so grievously as to kill them." And the 
Saint applies this to the vice of vainglory, according to 
those words of Christ : Take heed that ye do not your good 
works before men to be seen by them (Matt. vi. i), as 
though He would say, ' Take heed of the eyes of the basi- 
lisk. ' So the Saint says that there is this about the vice 
of vainglory, that it kills only the blind and the careless, 
who display themselves and put themselves forward for the 
vice to see them, and do not take care themselves to look 
at it first, considering what a vain and useless thing this 
vainglory is : for if in this way you first catch sight of 
the basilisk of vainglory, it will not kill you nor do you 
any harm, rather you will kill it, undoing it and turning 
it all to smoke. 

Let this be the first remedy against vainglory, to try 
to get the first look at this basilisk, by setting ourselves 
to consider and examine attentively how the opinion and 
. esteem of men is all a puff of wind and vanity, giving us 

nothing and depriving us of nothing, so that we shall be 
neither better for men praising us and setting store by us, 
nor worse for their disparaging us and persecuting us. St. 
Chrysostom, commenting on the verse of the fifth psalm, 
for thou wilt bless the just, treats this subject well. He 
says that these words are used by the Prophet to animate 
the just man, who is persecuted and hears hard words said 
of him by men, not to be alarmed at that or make much 
account of it. What harm will the contempt of all man- 
kind do him, if the Lord of angels blesses and praises him? 
On the contrary, if the Lord does not bless and praise him, 
nothing will avail him aught, not though all the world 
praises and publishes his merits. He quotes the example 
of holy Job, who, sitting upon a dunghill, covered all over 
with leprosy, ulcers and worms, persecuted and scoffed 
at by his friends, by his own wife, and by the whole world, 
yet was, notwithstanding, more blessed than them all, be- 



cause while men loaded him with insult and spoke ill of 
him, God spoke well of him saying that he was a man 
simple, upright, fearing God, and keeping aloof from 
evil, and persevering in innocence (Job ii. 3). Here was 
a man truly great, and the unfavourable judgments of men 
and the poor opinion that the world entertained of him lost 
him nothing. St. Chrysostom further says that all our care 
and diligence should be to be regarded and esteemed before 
God, because to be so before men takes nothing away from 
us and brings us nothing in, and there is no reason why 
we should take account of it. The Apostle St. Paul said : 
J care nothing for being judged and made light of by men: 
I have no mind to satisfy men, it is God that I seek to 
satisfy, since He is my judge : He that judgeth me is the 
Lord (1 Cor. iv. 3, 4). St. Bonaventure adds another point. 
" Be not angry," says he, " with those that speak ill of 
you ; for what they say is either true or false ; if it be true, 
you must not wonder they dare say what you durst do ; if 
it be false, their detraction can do you no harm. ' ' But if, 
notwithstanding, some stirrings of sensitiveness should 
arise, suffer, he says, all with patience, as one suffers a 
cautery if fire is applied to a wound; for as the cautery 
cures the wound, so the detraction that you suffer will 
perhaps cure you of some secret pride lurking in your 

The second means that will help us very much for the 
obtaining of this end, is that which St. Basil, St. Gregory, 
St. Bernard, and generally all the Saints recommend to 
us ; which is to take ver y great care to let no expressions 
islip out of our mouths that may turn to our own praise . 
" Never say anything of yourself that may redound to 
your praise," says St. Bernard, " though the person you 
speak to should be one of your most familiar friends ; but, 
on the contrary, endeavour to hide your virtues with more 
care than you take to hide your vices." Father Master 
Avila used so great a circumspection in this matter, that 
when it seemed necessary for the instruction of his neigh- 
bour to say something of edification that had happened to 
himself, he recounted it as of a third person, so that the 
other might not understand that he was the man. Con- 
cerning our Father Ignatius, we were told by a Prelate of 




TR. Ill 

Spain who had known him at Paris, that when he was 
treating of prayer, and persuading others to it, some asked 
him how he himself got on in prayer, to which he 
answered : " I shall only tell you what it befits you to 
know : that is charity and necessity, the other is vanity. ' ' 
We read in like manner of St. Francis, that he was so 
reserved in this matter, that he not only never discovered 
to others the favours and particular graces God had com- 
municated to him in prayer, but when he went from it, he 
endeavoured so to compose himself in his words and com- 
portment, that none should be able to perceive what he 
had in his heart. 

In the third place, not content with never saying a word 
that might redound to our own praise, we should go 
further and do all we can to keep secret the good works 
that we do, as we are told in the Gospel : When thou 
prayest, enter into thy private room and shut the door, 
and there pray to thy heavenly Father in secret. And 
when thou givest alms, let not thy left hand know what 
thy right hand doeth (Matt. vi. 6), as though to say, 'Don't 
let even yourself know.' And when thou fastest, anoint 
thy head and wash thy face, that thou mayest not appear 
to men to be fasting (Matt. vi. 17). Show then more 
cheerfulness than usual ; make a feast of it, because in that 
province of Palestine, St. Jerome says, they used to anoint 
their heads on feast-days. 

Great is the subtlety of this vice, and therefore the Re- 
deemer of the world recommends us so strongly to be on 
our guard and hide away from it, doing our works in 
secret that we may not lose them nor be robbed by this 
thief. This is the precaution taken by travellers, says St. 
Gregory, to conceal the money they carry with them ; for 
if they showed and made a display of it, the thief would 
catch sight of it and rob them. He cites to this effect 
what befell King Esechias, who showed the treasures of 
his house to the ambassadors of the King of Babylon, and 
the Babylonians afterwards made booty of them and 
carried them off to Babylon. They also bring into this 
effect the comparison of the hen, who cac kles when she 
lays an egg, and thereupon loses it. The true servant of 
God, says St. Gregory, is so far from this, that he is never 

ch. vi 


satisfied with doing no more good than what may be known 
by men, thinking that he has been already rewarded for 
that, but endeavours to heap up thereupon other good 
deeds that cannot possibly be known of men. St. Jerome 
tells of St. Hilarion that, perceiving the concourse of 
people that followed him, and the reputation that his 
miracles had occasioned, he was much afflicted, and wept 
every day very bitterly ; and his disciples asking him what 
was the occasion of his sadness and tears : " Methinks," 
said he, "seeing the esteem that men have of me, that God 
is paying me in this life for the service which I endeavour 
to render Him." This is another consideration, and another 
very good means to aid us against this vice. Be on you r 
guard and do not aspire after the praises of men, for fear 
lest God should pay you therewith fo r any good th at you 
may happen to have done in th is life. For so He is wont 
to do, as He Himself tells us in saying to the rich glutton : 
Remember, son, that thou hast received thy good things in 
this life (Luke xvi. 25). It is also for the same reason 
that the Saints do counsel us to avoid all sorts of singu- 
larity in devotion, because what is unusual attracts especial 
notice, and it is a common saying that he who does what 
no one else does draws the eyes of all the world upon him. 
These things are wont to foster in your soul vainglory and 
pride, whence arises contempt for others. 

But because we cannot always hide our good works, 
especially when we are called upon to contribute by our 
example to the edification of our neighbour, let this stand 
for the fifth remedy, to take care to rectify our intention, 

raising- our heart to God, and offering Hjm„all_ou£. 

thought s, words and actions, to the end that, when vain- 
glory comes to claim a part in them, we may say to it, 
according to the advice of Father Master Avila : " You 
come too late : all is already given to God." It will also 
be very good to make use of the answer St. Bernard made 
to a thought of vainglory that came to his mind while he 
was preaching : " I did not begin for you, and I won't 
leave off for you. ' ' For we ought not to let the fear of 
vainglory make us desist from our good undertakings ; we 
'must only stop our ears, and thereby render ourselves deaf 
to the praises of men. St. Chrysostom says we ought to 

I 3 2 


TR. Ill 

behave to the world as a father behaves towards his son 
whilst he is yet in his infancy, for whether the child fondle 
his father, or show himself peevish to him, it is all ihe 
same thing to the father : he laughs as well at the one as 
at the other, because he looks upon him as a baby, who 
knows not what he says nor what he does. Let us look 
upon the world in the same manner, and take it for a baby, 
not having sense to know what it is saying. Father 
f Francis Xavier, Apostle of the East Indies, used to say 
\ that whoever would enter into himself, and consider what 
-< he really is before God, would think that men were making 
game of him when they praised him, and would take their 
I praises for real insults. 

Let us conclude hereupon, and make our final remedy 
■JT against vainglory, self-knowledge, which is directly op- 
posed to it. If we would plunge and sink deep into this, 
we should quite understand that we have no ground for 
any approach to vainglory, but much for self-abasement 
and humiliation ; and this, not only looking at our evil 
deeds and sins, but even looking at the works which seem 
to us very good and righteous : on examination we should 
find therein abundant matter for humiliation and shame. 
St. Gregory often repeats : "All human righteousness, 
that which we commonly hold and have on our part, is 
convicted of being unrighteousness, if it is judged strictly : 
kind indulgence apart, our work, from which we look for 
reward, is often worthy of punishment." And so holy 
Job said : I feared for all my works (Job ix. 28) for the 
defects and faults that are usually mingled with them, 
when one does not walk cautiously keeping guard over 
oneself. When vainglory approaches, let us attentively 
examine and take account at night what the day has been 
like : we shall find in ourselves a depth of miseries, evils 
and faults that we have fallen into in thought, work and 
word, and omission; and if in aught by favour of our 
Lord there has been any good done, we shall commonly 
find that we have failed by pride and vainglory, or by lazi- 
jj Zotrvrywh ness an< ^ negligence, and by many other faults that we 
mm <rK*4 know, and by many others that we do not know, but may 
'^jf / ^ well believe that they are there. Let us then enter into 
/M4uu Zkan*/ ourselves, let us take refuge in knowledge of ourselves, let 
>AH- Ml-- MS^aM^- 

ch. vii 



us look at our feet, that is at the foulness of our works, 
and that will at once put a spoke in the wheel of vanity 
and pride rising in our heart. 

Of the end and good intention that we ought to have 
in our actions 

We have considered how vanity and regard for the 
opinion of men are to be avoided in the actions that we 
do : that is, how to keep aloof from evil. Now we will con- 
sider the end and intention that w e ought to ha ve in them, 
which is the grea t er honour a nd gl ory of God. The blessed 
St. Ambrose applies to this purpose what naturalists tell 
of the eagle, that the test that he uses to know his young 
whether they be legitimate or spurious, is to take them in 
his talons and expose them hanging in mid-air to the 
rays of the sun ; and if they look fixedly at it without wink- 
ing, he takes them for his own, and returns them to the 
nest and rears them; but if he sees that they cannot look 
fixedly at the sun> he takes them for no offspring of his, 
and lets them fall to the ground. Now in this it shall be 
known if we are true sons of God, if we look fixedly at 
the true Sun of justice, that is Gad; 1 directing to Him all 
that we do, so that the end and aim of all our actions be 
to please and satisfy God, and do in them His most holy 
will. This agrees well with what Christ our Redeemer 
says in the Gospel : Whoever shall do the 'will of 
my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother and my 
sister and my mother (Matt. xii. 50). 

We read of one of those ancient Fathers that at every 
action which he wished to set about he paused a little 
while ; and when asked what he was doing he answered : 
" Look you, our actions of themselves are worth nothing, C 
if we do them not with a good end and intention ; and as ( 
the marksman, to hit the mark, • stops pausing a little ( 
while, looking and taking aim, so I, before I do any goods 
work, ordain and direct my intention to God, who oughts 
to be the end and aim of all our actions, and that is whatl 

i 3 4 PURITY OF INTENTION tr. iii 

I am doing at the time of my pause." Now that is what 
we ought to do. Put me as a seal on thy heart (Cant, 
viii. 6). And as the marksman, better to make sure of his 
mark, shuts his left eye and looks only with his right, that 
his sight may be more collected and not distracted and 
err by looking in many directions, so we ought to shut 
the left eye of human and earthly considerations, and open 
only the right by a good and right intention, and in this 
manner we shall hit the mark, and come home thereby to 
the heart of God. Thou hast wounded my heart, my 
sister, my 'spouse, thou hast wounded my heart with one 
of thine eyes (Cant. iv. 9). 

To speak more clearly and descend more to particulars 
in this matter, I say that we should endeavour to refer 
and direc t all our act ions to God. And in this there is 
greater and less. In the first place, at rising we should 
offer to God all the thoughts, words and actions of that 
day, and beg Him that all may be for His glory and 
honour, so that afterwards, when vainglory comes, we 
may answer with truth, ' You come too late, that is al- 
ready given away. ' And further, we should not be satis- 
fied with offering and referring actually to God when we 
rise all that we are to do that day, but we should jtr y_ to 
accustom ourselves, as far as we ca n, never to st art any - 
thing that is not actually referred to t he g lory of God . 
And as the stonecutter or mason at work upon a build- 
ing is wont to hold the plummet or rule in his hand, and 
to apply it to every stone or brick that he lays, so we 
ought to regulate and direct every action that we do by 
this rule of the will and greater glory of God. And 
further, as the workman is not content with applying the 
rule or plummet once at the beginning, but applies it 
again and again until the stone is well and completely 
laid, so we must not be content with referring to God once 
for all at the beginning the actions which we do, but also 
during the time of doing them we should do them in such 
manner as to be always offering them to God, saying : 
' Lord, it is for Thee that I do this, because Thou com- 
mandest it, because Thou wiliest it.' 


In which it is explained how we may do our actions 
with great rectitude and purity of intention 

To explain how we may do our actions with greater 
perfection and purity, the Masters of Spiritual Life bring 
a good comparison. As mathematicians abstract from the 
matter, and deal only with the quantities and figures of 
bodies, making no account of the matter of which they are 
made, be it gold or silver or any other substance, since that 
is no concern of theirs, so the servant of God in the actions 
that he does must fix his eyes chiefly on doing the will of 
God, abstracting from all matter, not looking to see 
whether it is gold or clay, not minding whether they put 
him in this office or that, since our progress and perfection 
lies not therein, but in doing the will of God, and seeking 
His glory in what we do . The glorious St. Basil says this 
very well, and it is founded on the doctrine of the Apostle 
St. Paul. All the life and actions of a Christian man have 
one end and aim, which is the glory of God, for whether 
you eat or drink or do any other thing, says the Apostle, 
you should do all to the glory of God (i Cor. x. 31). 

The Apostle St. John relates how Christ our Redeemer 
was talking with the Samaritan woman, being very tired 
arid weary with His journey, arid the disciples had gone 
into the town to look for something to eat, as the hour 
was late. When they came with the food, they said to 
Him : Master, eat. But he answered them: I have meat 
to eat ye know not of. And when they asked one another: 
Hath any man brought him something to eat? My meat, 
he answered, is to do the will of him that sent me (John 
iv. 32). See here what ought to be our meat in all things 
we do. When you study, when you hear confessions, 
when you lecture or preach, your meat must not be the 1 
satisfaction of knowing, or studying, or preaching, since 
that would be to make clay of gold, but all your meat and 
nourishment and satisfaction should be the fact of your 
doing the will of God, which requires you there and then \ £h jf>,l¥3 



TR. iii 

to be doing those things. And the same also should be 
your meat when you serve in the domestic offices of the 
house. Thus one and the same is the meat, and one and 
the same diet, of porter and infirmarian as of preacher 
and lecturer. So you should be as content in your office 
as he is in his, since you have the same ground of content- 
ment that he has, which is doing the will of God. Thus 
we should ever aim, at having in our mouth and in our 
heart these words : ' For Thee, O Lord, I do this, for Thy 
glory, because so Thou wiliest ' ; and we must not stop in 
this exercise until we come to do things as serving the 
Lord and not men (Eph. vi. 7), as St. Paul says, and until 
l/O&xk. 4A-> ( we d° them in such a way as to be always in them actually 
(jug, frAj>dU, ) l° vm §T God, and rejoicing in them inasmuch as therein we 
jy-i&JiAjL. ) are doing the will of God, so that when we are at work 
S it seems that we are rather loving than working. 

Father Master Avila makes here a good and very 
homely comparison : as when a mother is washing the feet 
of her son or husband who has come off the road, she is 
at once serving and loving, and rejoicing and taking par- 
ticular pleasure and satisfaction in the comfort she is 
giving. Oh if we could succeed in doing our actions in 
this manner ! Oh if we could hit on this treasure hidden 
in the field, a treasure so manifest and open in one way, 
and yet so hidden and concealed in another, what spiritual 
and interior and advanced men should we be ! This is 
true alchemy, most certain to make out of copper and iron 
the finest gold, for though the work be in itself very 
^!HIILkl£±_l!££§!?X^ and of imme nse 

yalue^_ Let us then from now onwards aim at turning 
whatever we do into the finest gold, since the thing can 
be done so easily. In the Holy of Holies in the Temple 
of Solomon, everything was either of gold or covered with 
gold (3 Kings vi. 20-2) ; so everything in us should be 
love of God or done for love of God. 


That the reason why we find ourselves sometimes dis- 
tracted and thrown back in our spirituality by exterior 
occupations, is because we do them not as we should 

From what has been said it will be understood that the 
season why we find ourselves at tunes distracted and spiri- 
tually enfeebled by exterior occupations, does not: lie in the 
occupations, but in our own selv es, inasmu ch as we know 
not how to profit by them and do them as we ought. And 
so let no one throw the blame on his occupations, but on 
himself, in that he does not know how to profit by them. 
Crack the nut ; since it is not what is on the outside that 
is eaten, but what is in the inside. If you stop on the ex- 
terior of the work and this outer shell, that will harass 
your body and dry up your spirit. The inside, th e 
kernel, which is the will of God, ought to be your food. 
So crack with the teeth of consideration this shell, and 
leave this husk outside, and pass on to the marrow ; like 
Ezechiel's great eagle (Ezech. xvii. 3), that made its way 
inside and drew out the marrow of the cedar, not stopping 
at the bark. I will offer thee holocausts of marrow (Ps. 65). 
That it is on which we ought to rest, and offer it to God, 
and in this manner your soul will thrive and grow. 

Martha and Mary are sisters, they do not disturb nor 
hinder one another, but aid one another. Prayer helps- to 
dp action well, and action, done as it ought to be done, 
helps prayer, like good sisters. If you feel yourself 
troubled and disturbed in action, it is because Mary, that 
is, prayer, does not help you. Martha) Martha, thou art 
solicitous, and troubled over many things (Luke x. 41). 
Martha is troubled, because her sister Mary does not help 
her. Tell her, Lord, to help me (lb. ver. 40). Endeavour 
to procure the aid of Mary, that is, of prayer, and you will 
see how the trouble will cease. Ezechiel (i. 8) says of 
those holy living creatures that each held its hand under 
its wing, to give us to understand that spiritual men keep 
the hand of action under the wing of Contemplation, with- 



TR. Ill 

out removing' the one from the other, since in action they 
contemplate, and in contemplation they act. Cassian also 
says of those monks of Egypt, that while working with 
their hands they ceased not on that account to contemplate 
God, doing with their hands the office of Martha, and with 
their heart that of Mary. 

St. Bernard puts this very well. " Those engaged in 
spiritual life and prayer take much care so to occupy them- 
selves in exterior works and occupations that the spirit be 
not stifled nor devotion quenched. Thus exterior occupa - 
tions are n o hindrance to recollection a nd interior devotion , 
because th ey do riot occupy the u nderstandin g, but leave 
iLfree to be able to think of God." Hoc maxime curant 
spiritualibus exercitationibus dediti, taliter se circa 
exleriora occupare ut devotionis spiritum non extingu- 
ant: unde licet extrinsecus bonorum operum exercitiis fati- 
gentur in corpore, intrinsecus tamen reficiuntur in mente. 
Thus a very ancient and very spiritual Father, Father 
f Master Nadal, used to say that there were two sorts of 
persons that he greatly envied here in Religion, — novices, 
J because they did not mind nor spend their time on anything 
\ else than their spiritual progress ; and laybrothers, be- 
1 cause having their understanding unpreoccupied and dis- 
\ engaged, they are able to pass the whole day in prayer. 
St. John Climacus relates that there was in a monastery 
a cook, a very busy man, owing to the great number of 
Religious : he says there was two hundred and thirty, be- 
sides guests : and in the midst of all his occupations he 
kept up a very great interior recollection, and had further 
attained to the gift of tears. St. John Climacus 
wondered, and asked him how he had attained 
it, in the midst of so great and continual occupation. After 
much importunity he answered at last : " I never think that 
I am serving men, but God, and always hold myself un- 
worthy of quiet and repose ; and the sight of this material 
fire makes me always weep, and think of the severity of 
the everlasting fire." 

It is told of St^Cathenne^f^iejna_in her Life that she 
suffered much perseciraonTxom her parents, who heaped 
ill-treatment upon her to compel her to marry. The perse- 
cution went so far that they ordered that no private room 

CH. X 


J 39 

or cell should be allowed her in which to collect her 
thoughts, but occupied her in house-work. Further, they 
took out of the kitchen a slave they had, and put her in 
the place, so that she should have no time to pray nor do 
her other spiritual exercises. But taught by the Holy 
Ghost, the history says, she built there within her heart a 
very retired spiritual cell, and purposed never to go out of 
it, and succeeded in so doing. Thus as for the first cell, 
which she occupied before, sometimes she was within, 
sometimes outside ; but out of this other holy spiritual cell, 
which she had built within herself, she never stirred : they 
turned her out of her former cell, but they could never 
turn her out of this. She pictured to herself that her father 
represented Jesus Christ, her mother Our Lady, her 
brothers and the rest of the family the Apostles and Dis- 
ciples of the Lord, Thus she went about her work with 
great alacrity and diligence, for though she was in the 
kitchen and busy serving, she was ever thinking of her 
Spouse Jesus Christ, whom she made account that she was 
serving : she ever enjoyed the presence of God, and was 
with Him in the Holy of Holies. And she often told her 
confessor, when he had any exterior occupations, and was 
forced to go on a journey : ' ' Father, make within your- 
self a cell, and never go out of it." Let us do the like, and 
exterior duties and occupations will not distract us, but 
rather aid us to be always in prayer. 

Of the great benefit and gain to be found in doing 
one's actions in the manner aforesaid 

Actions done in the manner aforesaid are called full 
actions, and they who live in this manner, according to St. 
Jerome and St. Gregory, are said in Holy Writ to live full 
days and to be full of days (Job xlii. ult. : Ps. 72 J ; and that, 
though they have lived but a short time and died young, 
according to the saying of the Wise Man : Being made 
perfect in a short time, he fulfilled many years (Wisd. 
iv. 13). How is it possible in a short time to live a long 
time and fulfil many years ? Do you know how? By do- 


purity of Intention 

TR. iii 

ing full works and living full days. Full days shall be 
found in them (Ps. 72). This second passage explains the 
first : from morning till night and from night till morning 
live as a good Religious and servant of God : the servant 
of God lives a full day of twenty-four hours, since he occu- 
pies it all in doing the will of God. His very meals, recrea- 
tion and sleep, are not empty and useless hours for him, 
since he directs and refers them all to the greater honour 
and glory of God, and does them because it is the will of 
God that he should do them. He does not eat for appetite 
like beasts, nor seek his satisfaction and amusement in 
these things : rather he would be glad to do without any 
I. of them, if such were the Lord's good pleasure. O Lord, 
that we could go without eating, without sleep and without 
these recreations and amusements! O Lord, that one 
could be always loving Thee, and have no need to meet 
and supply these miseries of the body ! Deliver me from 
my necessities (Ps. 24), that I may be eternally taken up 
with Thee. 

I see that such is not the state and condition of this life : 
but the just man bears that with patience, though not with- 
out pain, saying to himself with Job and David, I sigh 
before I eat (Job iii. 24) : I mingled my drink with my tears 
(Ps. 101) : Every night I will water my couch with my 
tears (Ps. 6). So should we do, shedding tears when we 
go to take our rest, saying : ' Ah Lord, what a misery that 
I have to lie here such a long time without remembering 
Thee ! Woe is me that my sojourning is prolonged! (Ps. 
119). When wilt Thou take me, O Lord, this poor exile? 
Woe is me, how long is this captivity to last? Lead my 
soul out of prison (Ps. 141). When wilt Thou draw me, 
Lord, out of the prison of this body, that I may be able to 
give myself entirely to Thee? Oh when shall that be? 
Oh how long is that hour in coming ! ' These are full 
works and full days. In this manner the just lives long 
in a short time, and a few days of his life make many years 
of merits. But he who has not done good work, nor well 
employed the days of his life, though he has lived a long 
time and attained many years, is said to die void of days, 
because he has spent his days and his years in vain, and he 
may say that his years are few and evil (Gen. xlvii. 9). 

CH. X 



■ On those words of Isaiah that King Ezechias spoke on 
recovering from his sickness : I said, in the midst of my 
days I will go down to the gates of the grave (Isai. xxxviii. 
10), St. Jerome observes that just and holy men fulfil their 
days, as did Abraham, of whom Holy Writ says that he 
died full of days and in a good old age (Gen. xxv. 8) ; but 
the wicked always die in the midst of their days, and even 
do not get so far, according to the saying of the Prophet : 
Men of blood and contrivers of evil shall not live OUt half 
their days (Ps. 54), since they have let their years pass by 
to no purpose. So Holy Writ calls the sinner of a hun- 
dred years a child of a hundred years, and says that such 
a one shall be accursed. The child of a hundred years shall 
perish, and the sinner of a hundred years shall be accursed 
(Isai. lxv. 20), because he has not lived like a man, but like 
a child. Hence it is that in the case of the wicked death 
always takes them unseasonably, without their being ripe 
or ready for it. So, when it comes, they cry : ' Oh that 
I could have at least another year of life to do penance !' 
In the same way it happens to tepid and slack Religious, 
that though they have been many years wearing the habit, 
they can count but few days in Religion. 

We read in the Chronicles of St. Francis that one of 
these holy Religious was asked how long he had been a 
friar, and he answered, " Not for one minute. " The other 
did not understand, and was much surprised at the answer ; 
whereupon the servant of God said to him : " I know it 
is for seventy-five years that I have worn the habit of a 
Friar Minor ; but for how much of that time I have been 
a friar with my works, I do not know." Please God that 
none of us may be able to say with truth what this holy 
man said out of humility. The matter does not lie in many 
y^ears of Religion, nor in a long life, but in a good life. 
' ' Many count the years of their conversion, but often there" 
is little fruit of amendment," says that holy man. A 
few days of a good life are worth more than many years 
of a tepid and slack one. Before God there are not 
counted the years of life, but the years of a good life ; nor 
the years of Religion, but the years in which one has lived 
as a good Religious. In the Book of Kings it is said : A 
son of one year old was Saul when he began to reign; and 




he reigned two years over Israel (i Kings xiii. i). Yet it 
is certain that he was king for forty years, as St. Paul 
says : God) gave them for, king Saul, son of Cis, for forty 
years (Acts xiii. 21). Why then is it said that he reigned 
only two years ? Because in the annals and chronicles of 
God they count only the years of good life ; and it is said 
that he reigned for two years, because it was only for that 
time that he reigned as a good king. And in the Gospel 
(Matt. xx. 8), those who had come last to labour in the 
vineyard, though they had laboured only one hour, were 
preferred to those who had come in the morning, because 
in that hour they had earned as much as or more than the 
others all the day long. Do you reckon up at this rate 
how long you have lived in Religion. 

All this is said very well by St. Eusebius Emesenus : 
" We are wont to reckon up our years, and the periods of 
time that we have now lived ; be not deceived, whoever you 
are, by the number of days that you have spent here since 
you bodily left the world ; reckon that you have lived tha t 
day only on which you denied your own will, r esisted your 
passions and appetites, kept yo ur rules, and di d your medi - 
tation and your s piritual duti es well." Make up years of 
these days, if you can, and measure thereby?1he time that 
you have been a Religious ; and fear lest that be said of 
you which is said in the Apocalypse of the Bishop of the 
Church of Sardis : I know thy works, that thou hast the 
name of being alive, and thou art dead: wake up, for I 
find not thy works full before my God (Apoc. iii. 1, 2). 
I know your works, says God : though men know them 
not, I know them well. You have the name of being alive, 
and you are dead ; you have the name of Christian, and not 
the works of a Christian ; the name of Religious, and not 
the works of a Religious : your works agree not with the 
name you bear, since your works are not full, but vain and 
empty. They are not full of God, but void of God, and full 
of yourself. All that you seek is yourself in them, your 
own conveniences, your own honour and esteem. Let us 
then watch over ourselves, let us strive to make our actions 
full and our days full, that in a short time we may live long 
and be very deserving before God. 


A further declaration of the rectitude and purity of 
intention which we ought to have in our actions 

An excellent piece of advice is' commonly given to those 
who deal with their neighbour. It shows well how pure 
our intention should be in our works, and how sheerly 
and simply we ought to seek God in them. This is the 
doctrine of those glorious Fathers and Doctors of the 
Church, Jerome, Gregory and Chrysostom, as we shall 
see. \yhen you take in hand any work to the end 
that some good, general or particular, may thence accrue 
to your neighbour, have not chiefly in view the fruit and 
good success of the work, but the doing therein of the will 
of Go d. Thus when we hear confessions, preach, or lec- 
ture, we must not have chiefly in view the conversion or 
amendment and profit of those with whom we deal, or 
whose confessions we hear, or to whom we preach, but the 
doing of the will of God in that work, and doing therein the 
best we can to please God. The success of such work , the 
amendment of our neighbour and his actually drawing 
fruit from the sermon, — that is not our affair, but God' s. 
I planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the increase 
(i Cor. iii. 6). To plant and water, says the Apostle, that 
is what we can do, as the gardener does ; but the plants 
growing, and the trees bearing fruit, that is not 
the work of the gardener, but of God. The fruit 
of souls, their rising out of sin and being converted 
and growing to perfection, is all to be laid to God's 
account. The value and perfection of our work 
does not depend on that. This purity of intention then 
we must strive to have in our actions, and in this manner 
our intention will be very pure, and we shall enjoy great 
peace. He who does his works in this spirit is not 
troubled, when somehow • the success and fruit that 
he aimed at in his good work is hindered or rendered im- 
possible, since he does not make that his end nor set his 
heart on that, but on doing therein the will of God, and 


i 4 4 


tr. lii 

making the best job of it that he can to please God. But 
if when you preach, hear confessions, or do business, you 
are much wedded to the result and fruit of your good work, 
and make that your principal end, and then in some way 
your design is thwarted, you are sure to be troubled, and 
come to lose sometimes not only peace of heart, but 
patience also, and even suffer further loss still. 

Our blessed Father Ignatius used to illustrate this by a 
very good example or comparison. Do you know, he 
says, how we ought to behave in our ministrations to our 
neighbour? As the guardian angels behave to those whom 
they receive in charge from the hand of God, to advise, 
defend, direct, enlighten, move and help on to good, so 
far as they can ; but if their charges make an ill use of their 
liberty, and prove rebellious and obstinate, the angels do 
not distress themselves on that account, nor are they 
pained, nor lose one jot or tittle of the blessedness they 
enjoy in God, but rather say with Jeremy : We have treated 
Babylon and she is not healed, let us leave her (Jerem. li. 9). 
So we should take all possible means to draw our neigh- 
bours out of sin, and do them good ; and after we have 
done our duty diligently, we must remain in much peace 
of soul, and not lose heart b ecause The patient hold s on 
to his mala dy and~has n o mind to be curecT 

When the disciples returned from preaching, mightily 
pleased with themselves, because they had worked miracles 
and cast devils out of men's bodies, Christ our Redeemer 
answered them : Rejoice not in that, but rejoice that your 
names are written in heaven (Luke x. 20). Our joy must 
not depend on our success, even though it be as good suc- 
cess as that ; but see whether you are doing works such 
as to merit thereby that your name be written in the king- 
dom of heaven, see if you are doing the duties of your 
office : it is in that that you should put your joy and satis- 
faction : as for those other successes and conversions and 
marvels, they stand not to your account, and the reward 
and glory to be given to you will not be in proportion to 
them, but in proportion to your labours, whether men be 
converted and improved or not. This is ' seen clearly, 
taking the thing the other way about. Supposing great 
fruit gained, and all the world converted by your sermons 



and ministrations, and you havejiot gone about them as 
you ought, what will it profit you, as Christ our Redeemer 
says in the gospel? So in like manner, if you do what 
vou ought^J jiough not a soul be converted.' not on that 
account will your reward be less. In a fine plight certainly 
would the Apostle St. James be, if his reward depended on 
that, and he were to set up his rest on that, since they say 
he converted only seven or nine persons in the whole of 
Spain ; but not for that did he merit less, or please God 
less, than the rest of the Apostles. 

Furthermore, we find another great consolation in this 
fact, that not only will God not ask of us an account 
whether we have gained much fruit or not, but He will 
not even demand an account whether you have preached 
a fine sermon or given a grand lecture. That is not what 
God commands us, nor does in that our reward lie ; but 
what God commands and requires of me is that I do that 
which shall be possible and be in my pow er according to 
the talent that I have received, — if little, little; if much, 
much ; and with that He rests satisfied. Of him to whom 
they have given much, much shall be required; and little 
of him to whom little has been given (Luke xii. 48). 

St. Chrysostom explains this very well, treating of the 
parable of the talents. He asks what is the reason why the 
servant who gained two talents receives the same reward 
as he who gained five? When the master came to ask 
an account of the talents he had divided among his ser- 
vants, the holy Gospel says that he came who had received 
five, and said : Lord, thou gavest me five talents, thou 
seest that I have gained an increase of other five. And 
the master says to him : Well done, good and faithful ser- 
vant, because thou hast been faithful in a little, I will set 
thee over much. He comes who had received two talents, 
and says : Lord, thou didst entrust me with two talents. 
See here, I have gained an increase of other two (Matt, 
xxv. 20-23). And the master answers in the same words, 
promising the same reward to him as to the other who had 
gained five talents. What is the reason of this ? Avery 
good reason, answers the Saint, since the gain of five 
talents in the one case, and of not more than two in the 
second, was not a matter of greater or less diligence, but 



TR. iii 

because they gave five talents to the one, wherewith he 
was able to double the amount, and gain an increase of 
another five, while to the other they gave only two; yet 
the one showed as much diligence as the other, and worked 
as hard as the other in making the best of what he had 
received, and so was able to merit and receive the same 
honour and recompense. 

This point is very profitable and very consoling, being 
applicable to all things and to all offices and duties : if one 
man works and takes as much pains as another in the 
charge committed to him, he may merit as much as the 
other, although he does not do so much. For example, 
if I labour as much over preaching a sorry sermon as you 
over preaching a good one, it may be that I merit as much 
as you and even more. In the same way in studies : 
though your neighbour be but a poor scholar, and you a 
good one, though he knows little while you know much, 
it may be that he merits more with the little that he knows 
than you with the great deal that you know ; and the same 
in all occupations. Though I do not do my job to such a 
nicety as you do yours, and my abilities and talent do not 
go so far as that, yet it may be that I merit more with the 
little that I do than you with the great results that you 
achieve. This consideration will help mu ch to keep t he 
one party from vainglory, the other from discouragement . 

This is also the doctrine of St. Jerome on the same 
parable. " The Master receives with like good grace and 
honour him who brought in four talents as him who 
brought in ten; for God regards not so much the amount 
gained as the good will, diligence and charity with which 
( the work is done. " " God is more pleased with the affec- 
jCH^y J-^ J tion shown than with the value of our offerings," says 

fiArL j ) Salvian. As also says St. Gregory : " God does not re- 
ijJJb Lgard what is given, but out of how much love it is given." 

■ ^~^pxX> Deus non respicit quantum, sed ex quanto. God regards 

.A* the heart rather than the gift. Thus one with fewer 

works may please God better than another with more, if 
he does them with greater love. Herein clear shines forth 
the greatness of God, since no service, however great it be, 
is great before Him, if it proceed not from great love, since 
God has no need of our goods, and cannot increase in 

ch. xii 


riches nor in any other good thing. If thou beest just, 
what wilt thou give him thereby, or what shall he receive 
at thy hand? (Job xxxv. 7). What He does look for and 
value is being loved, and our doing what is in our power. 
We see this literally laid down in the matter of the two 
mites, which that widow in the Gospel offered. Christ 
our Redeemer was sitting hard by the treasury, or charity- 
box of the Temple, where people threw in their alms ; and 

there came those Pharisees or those rich men, and some 

threw in silver coins, others perhaps gold. Then came 
a poor widow, and threw in two mites. Christ turns to 
His disciples and says to them : Verily I say to you, this 
widow hath offered more than ail; because the others have 
given out of their superfluity, and even so have not given 
according to their condition, but she of her poverty hath 
given all that she had (Mark xii. 43-4). So, says St. 
Chrysostom, in the same way God will regard those who 
preach, study, labour, and do other ministries and offices :\ 
He will not look so much to what they do as to the goo d 
will, love and dilig ence with which they do it . 

Of some signs whereby it will be known when one 
goes after things purely for God, and when one goes 
after, them for oneself 

The blessed St. Gregory notes a good sign whereby to 
know whether in our ministrations to our neighbour we 
are seeking jjurely the glory of God, or are seeking our- " 
selves. See if when an other preaches very well, and sti rs hlo&CiSk^+z- 
up the whole world and gathers much fruit in souls, you gswu*. 
are as pleased as wh e n you do the like. If you are not j^^teaJbi/ 
pleased, but seem rather smitten with sadness or envy, i t 
is a clear sign that you ar e not seeking pure ly the glory 
of Ggd . And he quotes to this effect theApostle"St. James : 
If you have a bitter jealousy, and nourish in your heart 
feelings of contention and envy, your wisdom cometh not 
from above, but is earthly, animal, diabolical (James 
iii. 14,15). This is not zeal for the glory and honour of God, 



TR. Ill 

but zeal for yourself, zeal for your being honoured and 
esteemed as that other is. For if you desired the glory of 
God, and not your own, you would be glad that there 
should be many such men, and that others should do what 
you had not the capacity nor knowledge to do. So the 
Scripture tells us of Moses, when Josue would have had 
him hinder several persons from prophesying in the camp, 
he answered, showing himself much annoyed : Why are 
you zealous on my account? Would to God that all the 
people might prophesy, and that God would impart His 
Holy Spirit to them all (Num. xi. 29). A servant of God 
ought, in like manner, to say : Would to God that all were 
great preachers, and that the Lord would give them much 
of His spirit, that thus the honour and glory of God might 
be spread wide, and His holy name known and hallowed 
all over the world. 

We have a very good example of this in Father Master 
Avila. It is said of him that when he learnt that God our 
Lord had brought into the world the Society of Jesus by 
means of our holy Father, and understood the end and 
institute thereof, he said that he had aspired for many 
years to bring this to pass, but could never compass it ; 
and that the same thing had happened to him as might 
happen to a little child, who, being on the slope of a 
mountain, should try with all his strength to roll a heavy 
burden to the top, and could not do so by reason of the 
smallness of his strength • and then a giant should come 
along, who took up the burden which the child could not 
lift, and carried it whither he would with the greatest ease. 
By this comparison, in his humility, he made himself out 
a little child, and our Father Ignatius a giant. But what 
makes to our purpose is that he remained as satisfied and 
pleased as if the Society had been instituted by his means, 
since he desired therein nothing but the glory of God and 
the salvation of souls. These are God's good and faithful 
ministers, who seek not themselves but Jesus Christ. 

The true servant of God should have such a pure desire 
of the glory and honour of God, and of the profit and sal- 
vation of souls, that when God would have this effected 
by means of some other person, he should be as well satis- 
fied as if it had been done by himself. Wherefore it is a 

ch. xii 



very laudable practice that some servants of God, who 
are zealous for the conversion of souls, do observe in 
praying after this manner : ' Lord let this man be con- 
verted, let this soul be gained to Thee; let the profit and 
the gain be made by means of whomsoever Thou shalt 
please; I don't want anything attributing to me.' This 
is walking in, truth and purity, desiring not our honour 
and reputation, but the greater honour and glory of God. 

We may say the same concerning our own and our 
brethren's spiritual advancement. Who ever is pained or 
disheartened because he sees his brother growing and ad- 
vancing in virtue, while he lags behind, seeks not purely 
the greater glory of God. For though it be true that a 
faithful servant of God ought to have his heart pierced 
with sorrow to see that he serves not so great a Master 
with such diligence as he ought, yet it does not therefore 
follow from thence that he needs must fret himself or 
repine, because another makes greater progress than he 
does. On the contrary, in the great sorrow he has that 
he serves God no better, it should be a comfort and relief 
to him to see that though in his weakness he falls below 
standard, there are others who come up to what he would 
desire, glorifying and greatly serving the Lord. That 
discouragement and distress, which some feel, is bo rn of 
self-love and some pride or secret envy ; for if you really 
desired the greater honour" and glory of God, it is clear 
that you would receive much pleasure and content from 
seeing others growing greatly in virtue and perfection, 
although on the other hand you would feel sorrow and 
confusion for your not serving Him so well. 

Secondly, when a Religious does his duty and the thin gs 
commanded him in such sort as not to mind wheth er the y 
command him this or that, wheth er they pu t him in this 
office or/tha t71t is a~"very good sign that he does things 
purely for God, since he maintains this equanimity and 
entire indifference by the fact of his seeking ^pnly to do the 
will of God, resting not at all on the matter of the actions 
he does. But if he does not do what is humble and labori- 
ous with the same good grace as what is easy and honour- 
able, it is a sign that he does it not purely for God, but is 
seeking himself and his own taste and convenience. And 



tr. iii 

so that holy man says very well : " If God were the motive 
of thy desire, thou wouldst rejoice in whatever way He 
ordered the affair." 

Thirdly, it is a sign that ypu are not doing thi ng's purely 
f°L-^£2Sli^Ji02LJ]LS2}^P considerations when yo u expect 
your Superior to thank you for what you do and the labour 
you undergo 7~givlng you" to understand by his words that 
you have done the thing well, or at least showing some 
sign of satisfaction, and are disheartened when he does 
nothing of the sort. If you did things purely for God, you 
would not wonder at that, nor take account of it, rather 
you would be confounded and ashamed when the Superior 
made anything of you, taking it to come of your imper- 
fection and weakness, and you would bewail yourself 
and say : ' Sorry and wretched creature that I am, am I 
such a child and so tender in virtue that it is needful to 
nourish me and keep me up with these things ' ! It is told 
in the Spiritual Meadow of the Abbot John the Younger, 
a monk of the Thebaid, who was the disciple of Abbot 
Anion, that for twelve whole years he served one of the 
ancient Fathers, who was infirm ; and though this Father 
saw that the task was so heavy arid so engrossing, he 
never spoke to him one kind or loving word, but, on the 
contrary, treated him rudely. Finally, the old man find- 
ing himself near his death, and a great many hermits 
coming to visit him and being all gathered round him, 
he called this humble and patient disciple, and, taking him 
by the hand, he said to him three times : " Stay with God ! 
Stay with God ! Stay with God !" and commended him to 
the assembled Fathers, to treat him as a son, saying : 
" This is not a man, but an angel ; for these twelve long 
years that he has served me in my sickness, he has never 
had a good word from me, yet, notwithstanding, he has 
never failed to serve me with great diligence and affec- 


How we ought to go on growing and mounting to 
greater heights in rectitude and purity of intention 

Our blessed Father Ignatius explains to us in greater de- 
tail how we ought to mount in this rectitude and purity of 
intention. "Let all strive to have a right intention, not only 
about their state of life, but about all particular details ; 
ever sincerely looking in them to serve and please His 
Divine Majesty for His own sake, and for the singular 
benefits wherewith He forestalls us, rather than for the 
fear of punishment or the hope of reward, though they 
should be aided by these motives also ; and in all things 
let them seek God, stripping themselves^ as far as 
possible, of the love of all creatures, to bestow their whole 
affection upon the Creator thereof, loving Him in all 
things, and all things in Him, according to His most holy 
and divine will." ^ 

There are several ways of seeking and serving God. To 
serve God out of fear of punishment is to seek God, and 
is a good thing ; because that fear, though it be servile, 
ceases not to be good and to be a gift of God, and there- 
fore the Royal Prophet begged it of God when he said : 
Pierce my flesh, O Lord, with Thy fear (Ps. 118). But if 
we should say to ourselves and have in our hearts this . 
sentiment : ' If there were no hell, and I were not afraid ,, ,* 

of being punished, I would offend God:' divines hold^***"^ Sf p' 
that such an act as this would be evil and sinful, and show **- ^io^u- 
a will very ill disposed. Notwithstanding, to help our- A" Xi*t>, J>a 
selves with the fear of punishment, with the apprehen- doM-. " 
sion of death and judgment, thereby to excite our- 
selves the better to serve God and to abstain from offend- 
ing Him, is good; and it is upon this account that the 
Holy Scripture frequently puts these things before us and 
threatens us with them. ^ 

Secondly, to serve Go<fTor the reward which we hope 
for in glory, is also to seek God, and that in a better way 
than the former, because there is more perfection in doing 


I 5 2 


TR. iii 

our actions for the motive of reward in glory than for that 
of fear of hell : this is to go increasing in perfection. 
And so St. Paul says that Moses acted : By faith, Moses, 
after he came of age, made nothing of being the son of 
Pharaoh's daughter, -who had adopted him: he despised 
that, and sought rather to be humbled and despised for 
God than to enjoy all the treasures and riches of Egypt, be- 
cause he had his eye on the recompense and reward that he 
hoped for (Heb. xi. 24-6). And the Royal Prophet said : I 
have disposed my heart, O Lord, to observe thy law, look- 
ing at the recompense thou hast promised (Ps. 118). This 
motive is good also, and we should aid ourselves with it ; 
but our holy Father will have us go farther, and desires 
that we should still elevate our hearts, and entertain higher 
thoughts. Aspire to better gifts, and I will show you a 
still more excellent way (1 Cor. xii. 31). He is not content 
that we should seek and serve God in any ordinary manner, 
but he would have us-^eek and serve God for Himself, for 
His infinite goodness, and for His being what He is, 
which is the highest of all titles. 

The glorious Fathers of the Church, Basil, Chrysostom 
and Gregory, treat this point excellently well. They 
liken those who serve God for reward to Simon of Cyrene, 
who took up Christ's cross for a price reckoned as the 
hire of his day's work; so these people serve. God for the 
price and day's wage to be given them. The Saints say that 
we should not be solicitous and careful about remunera- 
tion, reckoning up at so much the. reward and the pay : 
that is the part of hirelings and day-labourers who seek 
their own interest. We should not serve God in this 
manner, but as true sons for pure love. There is a great 
difference, say they, between the service of a slave, the 
service of a servant, and the service of a son . The slave 
serves his master for fear of chastisement and the whip. 
The servant, or vassal, serves his lord for the pay and 
reward that he hopes from him; and if he is diligent in 
serving him, it is because in that way he hopes to thrive 
and be handsomely rewarded. But the son serves his 
father for love, and is most careful not to offend him, not 
for fear of chastisement, which the son fears no more when 
he is grown up, nor for hope of getting anything from 

ch. xiii 



him, but for pure love. Thus a good son, though his 
father be poor and has nothing to leave him, serves and 
honours him on the ground that he deserves it for being 
his father, and takes it for sufficient reward of his service 
and labour that his father is pleased. So other Saints 
tell us we should serve God, not for fear of punishment, 
like slaves, nor for hope of pay and remuneration, like 
hired servants and day-labourers, but as true sons of God, 

since God has done us the favour of making us such. See 

what charity the Father hath for us, in that we are called 
and be sons of God (1 John iii. 1) and with truth we call 
God Father, and His Son Brother. Since we are sons of 
God, let us love and serve Him as sons, and honour Him 
as a Father, and such a Father, for pure love, to give satis- 
faction to our heavenly Father, as He deserves for being 
what He is, for His infinite goodness, alone, even though 
we had hearts and bodies without end to employ in loving 
and serving Him. 

St. Chrysostom says very well : "If you have been^ 
found worthy to do something for God, and then go seek- 
ing some other reward besides the mere fact of your having 
been found worthy to please Him, it shows that you do not 
know what a good thing it is to please God ; for if you 
knew it, you would never seek any other reward beyond 
that." For what greater good can we desire or propose 
to ourselves than to ple ase and gi ve satisfaction to God? 
Imitate God as dearly beloved children, and love him as 
Christ hath loved us, says St. Paul (Eph. v. 1). Con- 
sider, says St. Bonaventure, how liberally and without 
any interest of His own God has loved us, and done us so 
many favours, and not only without self-interest but to His 
own heavy cost, since we have cost Him His life-blood. 
In this manner then we should love and serve God purely 
and without any manner of self-interest. Our very vir- 
tues and supernatural gifts we should desire, not for 
our own advancement and satisfaction, but purely 
for God and His greater glory, to have wherewith to thank 
God and give Him greater satisfaction. And the glory 
of heaven itself we should also desire after this manner. 
When we put before our soul the reward of the good that 
we do, to animate us to do well, that should not be the ulti- 



TR. : 111 

mate end, on which our desire should finally rest, but our 
ultimate end should be the greater service and glory of 
God^ since the more glory we attain, the better shall we be 
able to honour and glorify the Lord. This is true love of 
charity, and true and perf ect love of God . This is pure 
seeking of God and of His greater glory : all else is seeking 
ourselves and loving ourselves. This is the distinction 
which theologians and moral philosophers draw between 
perfect love, which they call love of friendship (amor, ami- 
citiae), and love of desire (amor concupiscentiae), in that 
the former loves its friend for love of the friend, and the 
good of virtue, whereas the love of desire is when I love 
another, not so much for his own sake as for the interest 
and advancement which I think will accrue to me from 
him, as when one serves the rich and the powerful in ex- 
pectation of favours to be received from them. It may 
well be seen that this is not perfect love, but a love full of 
self-love, not so much loving your friend, as loving for 
yourself and your own conveniences and interests. Thus 
we say that you love bread and wine with the love of 
desire, since you do not love it for itself, but for yourself 
and as something to come in to yourself ; that is loving 
yourself. In this way they do love and serve God, who 
serve Him for fear of punishment or hope of the reward 
which He is to give them. This love is largely mingled 
with love of self : you do not seek God purely and disin- 
terestedly therein. This Christ our Redeemer gives us to 
understand, when after He had worked the famous miracle 
of feeding five thousand men, not to count women and 
children, with five loaves and two fishes, much people fol- 
lowed Him, to whom He said : Amen, amen, I say to you, 
ye seek me and come to me, not because ye take me for 
God, for having seen the signs and wonders I have 
wrought, but because ye have eaten of the loaves and had 
your fill: it is for your own interest that you seek 
me. Seek not for the meat that perisheth, but for 
that which endureth unto life everlasting (John vi. 26-7) 
which is Christ and doing purely the will of God. Oh 
what a good answer was that of the servant of God, of 
whom Gerson relates that he was greatly given to penance 
and prayer, and the devil, envious of so many good works, 



tried to divert him from them, and so assailed him with a 
temptation about predestination ' ' Why weary and fatigue 
yourself so much? You are not to be saved, you are not 
to go to glory. " He answered ; " I do not serve God for 
. the glory of heaven, but for His being what He is. " There- 
at the devil stood abashed. 

The glorious St. Bernard goes even further still. He 
would have us so forgetful of self-interest in the works 
that we do as not to be content with loving and serving, as 
sons, but go beyond that. The love of sons is all very 
well, nevertheless they sometimes have an eye to the estate 
and the inheritance, and think of that: sometimes' too 
they love and serve their parents that they may not disin- 
herit them, or that they may leave them an extra portion. 
" I hold in suspicion that love which is kept up by hope 
of gaining some other object besides the object loved ; and 
when that other object drops from view, vanishes or falls 
off. That is no pure nor perfect love : true and perfect 
love is not mercenary. Pure love does not borrow strength 
from hope, nor feel the depression of failing hope.'' He 
means to say that the true lover does not need to put 
pressure on himself to serve God, or labour for what he 
expects to have given him, nor would he be discouraged 
or cease to labour though he knew they had nothing to 
give him, because he is not moved thereto by self-interest, 
but by pure love: 

But what shall be the love so high and perfect as to 
exceed and supersede the love of sons? Do you know 
what? says the Saint, " It is the love of the bride for the 
bridegroom, because true and perfect love is content with 
itself alone. It has a reward, but its reward is that which 
it loves : loving the beloved, that is its reward. Now such 
is the love of the bride, that seeks not nor aims at anything 
else than loving ; and the bridegroom seeks nothing but to 
be loved : that is all his concern. Now in this way, says St. 
Bernard, we should love God, who is the Bridegroom 
of our souls, so that we should stop and rest on 
this love for His being what He is, and that should be all 
our satisfaction and joy. True and perfect love is conten t 
with itself alo ne : the lover is content and satisfied with 
this love. This should be our merit and this should be our 

i 5 6 


tr. iii 

reward : we should not seek or aim at anything- else than 
loving. The motive of our loving God should be to lov e 
Him : the fruit of our loving God should be to love Him ; 
and the end o f our loving Him should be to love Him. I 
love because I lov e, and I love to love. ' ' Is per se sufficit, 
is per se placet et propter se: ipse meritum, ipse praemium 
sibi est amor, praeter se non requirit causam, non fruc- 
tum: fructus ejus usus ejus, amo quia amo, amo ut amem. 
St. Chrysostom takes up this subject and goes on with 
fit very well. Think not, he says, that because you have 
I not an eye to any reward or interest, your recompense 
\ and reward shall be less on that account, nay it will be 
J greater. The less you think of gaining, the more you will 
(_gain. It is certain that the more a work is stripped of all 
self-interest, the purer and more perfect it will be, inas- 
much as there is no admixture of your own in it, and so it 
will be more meritorious. The more you turn your eyes 
away from all manner of self-interest, and the more purely 
you aim at pleasing God, says St. Chrysostom, the greater 
shall your reward be. The further you are removed from 
the spirit of a day-labourer, the greater shall be your daily 
wage, because God will not pay you as a hireling servant, 
but as a son, the heir of the treasures of his father. If 
sons, also heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ 
(Rom. viii. 17). We shall be sons and heirs of God, and 
brothers of Christ, inheriting jointly with Him : we shall 
enter with Him into our share, inheriting and enjoying 
the goods of our Father who is in heaven. The mother of 
Moses had hire and salary paid her by Pharaoh's daugh- 
ter for her to rear her own son (Exod. ii. 9) :' but she did 
not do it for hire and salary, but for the love she bore her 


Of three degrees of perfection whereby we may ascend 
to great purity of intention and great love of God 

These three degrees are gathered from the doctrine of 
the Saints, and especially of the glorious St. Bernard. The 
first is when one solely intends and seeks the glory of G od X 
in such sor t that, in the things that he does, all hi s con - 
tentment i s in Go d, in fulfi lling and doing the will of God, 
forgetful of all thi ngs in the world. St. Bernard says : 
" Do you seek for a good sign to know, so far as can 
be known on earth, whether you love God much and are 
growing in that love? See whether there is anything 
outside of God that can afford you consolation and 
satisfaction. So long as I can reap consolation or 
delight from any extrinsic object whatsoever, I dare 
not say that our Beloved yet occupies the innermost fold 
of my affections and most ardent love." And this is 
what St. Augustine also says (Confess, x. 29) : " He loves 
Thee less, who along with Thee loves anything that he 
loves not for Thy sake." Minus te amat, qui tecum aliquid 
amat quod non propter te amat. A singular and excellent 
love was that of the holy queen Esther, who in the midst 
of her pomps and royal splendour could say : Lord, thou 
knowest that thy handmaid, from the time that she was 
brought here even to this very day, hath never rejoiced in 
anything except in thee, Lord God of Abraham (Esther 
xiv. 18). That is a perfect and singular love. 

St. Gregory on the text, who build themselves solitudes 
(Job iii. 14) says: " This is to build oneself a solitude, 
when one is so unseated and detached from all creatures, 
and has lost love and affection for all things of earth in 
such sort that, though his position sets him in the midst 
of as many recreations and amusements as the world con- 
tains, for all that, he finds himself alone by himself, be- 
cause those things, yield him no contentment nor consola- 
tion. Such a man has built a solitude for himself, since 
all his satisfaction is fixed in God, and so he finds no com- 


i 5 8 


TR. Ill 

pany nor comfort in aught else." Even here we find ex- 
perience of this, when we have a friend in whom all our 
affection is centred, so that away from him, even in a great 
company of other people, we feel ourselves in a solitude 
and altogether lonely because it was in him that all our 

i delight lay. In like manner, he who has placed all his love 
and contentment in God, and has cast off from him all 
affection for creatures, though he be much in company, 
and in the midst of all the recreations and amusements 
in the world, finds himself alone, because he has no taste 
for all that, but only for Him whom he loves. They who 
have arrived at this, says St. Gregory, enjoy great quiet 
MhL aa* fi&l> I an ^ tranquillity of soul; there is nothing to disturb them 
i ^ i or give them pain : they are neither troubled with adver- 

th&A/ /^MMUs sity, nor vain and petulant in prosperity, since they have 
j no love nor affection for anything in the world, nor fret 
I themselves, nor change as things about them change, nor 
. depend on such things, because they reckon nothing of 
\them. Do you know, says St. Gregory, who has reached 
this point, or built himself such a solitude? He who said : 
One thing have I asked of the Lord, this will I seek, that 
I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life 
(Ps. 26). And now what is my expectation? Is it not the 
Lord? (Ps. 38.) This point also the holy Abbot Silvanus 
had reached, of whom we read that, when he came forth 
from his prayer, the things of earth seemed to him so 
mean and shrunken that he lifted up his hands and covered 
his eyes, not to see them, saying to himself : ' Shut your- 
selves, my eyes, shut yourselves, and see not any things 
of the world* for there is nothing in it worth looking at.' 
The same we read of our Blessed Father Ignatius, that 
when he raised his heart to God and looked at the sky, 
he would say: ' Ah, how mean is earth when I look at 
heaven ! ' 

The second degree may be that which the glorious Ber- 
nard assigns in his treatise on the Love of God, when a 
man not only forgets a l l outwa r d things, but himself also_,_ 
y not loving himself for himsel f, but in G od and for God 
and in view of God . We must be so forgetful of our- 
selves, and of all our advancement and interest, and love 
God so purely and perfectly, that in the good things which 

ch; xiv 



we receive at His hands, as well of grace as of glory, all 
our contentment and rejoicing should be, not for our own 
good and advancement, but because therein is fulfilled 
the will and good pleasure of God. Thus do the Blessed 
in heaven, where they rejoice more in the fulfilment of the 
will of God than in the greatness of their own glory. They 
love God with a love so intense and pure, and are so trans- 
formed and united with His will, that the glory which 
they have, and the happy lot which has befallen them, 
they do not cherish so much for the benefit and profit 
thence ensuing to them, nor for the satisfaction which 
they receive, as because God is pleased with it, and such 
is His will. So we should love God, says St. Bernard, 
as he did who said: Confess to the Lord, because he is 
good (Ps. 117). He does not say, because he is good to 
me, but because he is good, He does not love as that 
other loved, of whom it is said : He will confess to thee, 
when thou shalt have done him good (Ps. 48) ; but he loves 
and praises God because He is good in Himself. 

, The third and last degree of perfection and love of God, 
says St. Bernard is quando quis operatur, non ut ipse Deo 
placeat, sed quia placet ei Deus, vel quia placeat Deo quod 
operatur, ''when a man acts, not that he himself may 
please God, but because he takes pleasure in God, or 
because he would have his action please God." Thus all 
that he take s account of is the approv al, conten tment and 
good plea sure o f God , not re membering himself, nor setting 
any more: store by h i mself than if he did not exist a nd were 
not in the world at alL " This is the purest andmosf" perfect 
love of God. This love is truly a mountain, a mountain 
of God, high, fertile, plentiful: mons coagulatus, mons 
pinguis (Ps. 67) ; a thing of great and exquisite perfection, 
for that is the meaning of ' mountain of God,' a thing 
very grand and excellent. 

But who shall be able to ascend this mountain so high? 
(Ps. 23). Who will give me wings as of a dove to fly and 
rest upon it? (Ps. 54). " Woe is me," says that glorious 
Saint, " that in this exile I cannot wholly forget myself." 
Unhappy man that I am, who will deliver me from this 
captivity! (Rom. vii. 24). Lord, I suffer violence, answer 
for me (Isai. xxxviii. 14). When shall I die, O Lord, to 



tr. iii 

myself, and live for Thee alone ? Woe is me that my exile 
is prolonged! (Ps. 119). When shall I come and appear 
before the face of God? (Ps. 41). When shall I be, O 
Lord, united and transformed into Thee by love, wholly 
denuded and forgetful of myself, and made one spirit with 
Thee, so that henceforth I love nothing in myself, nor for 
myself, nor taking it to myself, but all in Thee and for 
Thee? So St. Bernard tells us: " To lose yourself in a 
manner as though you were not, and not to be conscious 
of yourself at all, and to be emptied out of self and as it 
were reduced to nothingness, that is having your con- 
versation in heaven, and not the affections of earth." 
This perfection is of heaven rather than of earth, as 
the Psalmist says : I will enter into the powers of the 
Lord: Lord, I will be mindful of thy righteousness alone 
(Ps. 70). When the good and faithful servant shall enter 
into the joy of his Lord, and shall be inebriated with 
the abundance of His love, then we shall be so absorbed 
and transformed into God as not to remember ourselves. 
When he shall appear, we shall be like him, because we 
shall see him as he is (1 John iii. 2). Then shall the 
creature be. in complete accord with its Creator, as the 
Scripture says : The Lord hath created all things for 
himself (Prov. xvi. 4). Then we shall love God purely, and 
not love ourselves for ourselves, nor any other creature ex- 
cept in God. " Our delight will be not so much in seeing 
our desires crowned to the full, or the happiness that is 
fallen to our lot, as the seeing God's will fulfilled in us and 
about us " (St. Bernard). All our joy will be, not in our 
own joy, but in the joy and satisfaction of God. This 
it is to enter into the joy of the Lord (Matt. xxv. 21). 

" O holy and chaste love," cries St. Bernard, " O 
sweet and delicious affection, O pure and high-refined in- 
tention of the will ! all the higher-refined and purer, I 
say, inasmuch as there is no longer left in it any admixture 
of anything of our own ; all the more delicious and sweeter, 
inasmuch as all that is felt is of God. To be thus affected 
is to be deified and transformed into God. ' ' We shall be 
like him, as St. John says (i.e.). St. Bernard alleges three 
comparisons to explain how this deification and transfor- 
mation into God shall be. As a drop of water thrown 




into a great quantity of wine, loses all its properties and 
qualities, and takes the colour and taste of the wine ; — 
and as iron, kindled and made red-hot in the forge, appears 
no longer iron, but fire; — and as the air, receiving the 
brightness of the sun, is transformed in a manner into 
brightness, so that it seems the brightness is all one ; so, 
he says, in our final state of bliss, we shall lose all our own 
tastes, and all that we shall love there shall be God and 
for God. " Otherwise, how shall God be all in all (l Cor. 
xv. 28), if in man there remains still something of man? " 
Alioquin quomodo erit Deus omnia in omnibus, si in 
homine de homine quidquam supeferit? Our own shall 
have no part there ; my glory and my satisfaction will be 
the satisfaction and glory of God, not my own. Thou 
art my glory and the lifter up of my head (Ps. 3). Now"^ 
though we cannot here reach so high, we should make it 
our endeavour to fix our gaze on this height; because the ' " 
further we advance and approach to it, the greater will 
be our perfection and union with God. And so St^ 
Bernard concludes : " This, Eternal Father, is the will of 
Thy Son in our regard ; this His prayer for us to Thee, 
His God and Father : I will that as I and thou are one, so 
also they may be one in us (John xvii. 21) ; that is to say, 
that they may love Thee for Thine own sake, and them- 
selves only in Thee. This is the end, this the consumma- 
tion, this is perfection, this peace, this the joy of the Lord, 
this silence in heaven (Apoc. viii. 1)." This is the end and 
furthest perfection to which we can attain. 




Of the merit and excellence of charity and fraternal 


Behold, says the Prophet David, how good and pleasant 
a thing it is, for brethren to dwell together in union! 
(Ps. 132). St. Jerome speaks of this psalm as 
applying- properly to Religious. " Lo," he says, " what 
a good thing, what a subject of great joy it is, that for one 
brother we have left there in the world, we find so many 
gathered here in Religion," who live and cherish us better 
than our brothers in the flesh. " My brother in the flesh, " 
the Saint goes on to say, " does not love me so much as 
my fortune. ' ' That is what our relations are after. It is 
all self-interest : for that, they go after us ; for that, they 
trouble us ; and when that motive does not exist, they care 
nothing about us. This is not true love, but self-interest. 
But your spiritual brothers, who have already left and 
spurned all they had of their own, do not come here to seek 
after other people's property. They love not your fortune, 
but your soul. That is true love. So says St. Ambrose : 
" The brotherhood of the spirit is greater than that of the 
flesh : for the brotherhood of flesh and blood makes us like 
one another in body, but the brotherhood of the spirit 
makes us all have one heart and one soul, as was said of 
the first believers " (Acts iv. 32). 

St. Basil insists very well on this great union of Reli- 
gious : " What thing more agreeable, what thing more 
happy and blessed, what thing more marvellous and admir- 
able can be imagined? to see men of so many different 
nations and countries so conformable and alike in their 
ways and mode of procedure that they seem to be but 



one soul in many bodies, and many bodies the instruments 
of one soul, adeo in unum veluti coaluisse, ut in pluribus 
corporibus unus tnodo esse animus videatur, vicissimque 
plura corpora mentis unius instrumentacernantur." That 
is set down in the Life of our blessed Father Ignatius for a 
great marvel and almost a miracle that God has wrought 
in the Society, to see a union and conformity so great and 
so well-set between men of such different nations, so 
different and unequal in natural character, in rank; 
in inclination, in individual bent and disposition. Though 
our natures differ, yet grace and virtues and supernatural 
gifts make us mutually conformable and one. God it is 
who maketh conformable in manner of life them who dwell 
in his house (Ps. 67). That is the sense of the text. 

And so great is the favour that the Lord in His goodness 
and mercy does us herein, that not only we who are here 
in Religion enjoy it, but the odour thereof spreads and 
diffuses itself also to those outside in the world, to their 
great edification and profit, and the great glory of God our 
Lord. Thus we see in the case of many of those who 
enter the Society, that when they are asked what moved 
and inclined them thereto, they say it was this union and 
brotherly spirit which they saw in it. This agrees very 
well with what St. Augustine says on these same words : 
Behold what a good and pleasant thing it is for brethren 
to dwell together* in unity: " At this sound so pleasant, 
at this voice, so sweet, men have been roused to leave their 
parents and properties and band together in Religious Life. 
This is the trumpet that has called them together and 
united them from various quarters of the world, taking 
this union and mutual charity to be a heavenly life. This it 
is that has brought forth monasteries and peopled Reli- 
gious Houses: this thelodestone that has attracted hearts." 
Iste dulcis sonus, ista melodia etiam monasteria peperit. 
Thus, of the three things that the Wise Man mentions as 
very pleasing to God, the first is concord and union among 
brethren. (Ecclus. xxv. r, 2). 

,We have two precepts of this charity : the one is the first 
and principal commandment, to love God with our whole 
heart, with our whole soul, and with all our strength. The 
second is to love our neighbour as ourselves. It is of this 


second precept that we have to treat here ; since that it is 
that makes the union and brotherhood of which we purpose 
to treat. This union of souls and hearts is the effect and 
property of this charity and love, which, as St. Denis says, 
has the power to unite and draw things to one another. 
So St. Paul calls it the bond of perfection (Col. iii. 14), the 
perfect tie and bond which binds together things that were 
apart, and makes of many wills one. It makes me seek 
for others what I seek for myself, it makes me seek it as 
for myself, it makes my friend a second self, it makes us 
be as one being. So St. Augustine approved the saying of 
him who called his friend " the half of my soul," dimidium 
animae meae, one soul divided among two bodies. 

That we may see the value and excellence of this charity 
and love of our neighbour, and what store the Lord sets 
by it, let us begin with these last words of Christ. St. 
Chrysostom here calls attention to the fact that when 
Christ our Lord has laid down this first and greatest 
commandment of loving God, He proceeds at once to 
the second commandment of loving our neighbour, and 
says that it is next to the first. See, says the Saint, 
the goodness and bounty of the Lord, that notwith- 
standing the infinite distance there is between man and 
God, he requires us to love our neighbour with a love 
so near and so like to the love wherewith we love 
God. He fixes in a manner the same measure to the 
love of our neighbour as He fixed to the love of God : since 
of God He says that we should love Him with our whole 
heart and with our whole soul, and of our neighbour He 
says that we should love him as we love ourselves. As when 
here on earth we wish well to a person, and would fain 
commend him to another, we are wont to say : ' If you love 
him, you will be loving me,' so, says St. Chrysostom, that 
is what Christ our Redeemer wished to tell us in saying the 
second is like to the first (Matt. xxii. 39) ; if you love your 
neighbour, you will be loving God. And so He said to St. 
Peter, feed my sheep (John xxi. 17), as though He would 
say : ' If you love me, take care of them who are mine, and 
in that it will be seen that you love me in right down good 
earnest. ' 

But further, the Lord wishes us to love our neighbour 

ch. i ' A NEW COMMANDMENT i6f 

with the same love, wherewith we love Him. Thisis the 
new commandment that He gives us. A new command- 
ment I give you, that ye love one another as I have loved 
you (John xiii. 34). As Christ has loved us purely for God 
and for God's sake, so He wishes also that we should love 
out* neighbour for God and for God's sake. He calls it a 
new commandment, says St. Augustine, not only because 
He has newly explained and newly commended it to us by 
word and example, but because it is really something new 
that He is asking of us. Natural love is a love very old 
and very ancientj founded as it is on flesh and blood ; it is 
a love that not only the good but the wicked also feel; 
and not only men, but dumb animals. Every animal loveth 
his own like (Ecclus. xiii. 19). But the love wherewith 
Christ would have us love our neighbours and brethren is 
a new love> because it must be a love spirituajpand super- 
natural, loving our neighbour for God with the same love 
of charity wherewith we love God. And so Theologians 
and Saints observe that the love wherewith we love God 
for God, and that wherewith we love our neighbour for 
God, -is one and the same! charity and virtue. They call it 
a theological, that is to say, a divine virtue, a virtue that 
has 1 God for its aim and object, because the infinite good* 
ness of God is worthy of being loved for its own 1 sake, and 
for it at the same time we also love our neighbour, r 

Finally, in the whole of Holy Writ we shall find no p0int 
more strongly urged, or more frequently recommended 
and repeated, than this union and fraternal charity. And 
Christ our Redeemer at the time of His leavetaking,< in that 
last discourse at the Supper, harks back upon it to com- 
mend it to us once and again; iThis is my commandment 
that ye love one another as I have loved you. And again 
He says : This I command you, that ye love one another 
(John xv. 12, 17). This I command you as my last will 
and testament. . He would have us thereby: see how much 
He desired that this should be stamped and rooted in Our 
hearts^ knowing of what importance it was for us, and 
that thereon depended the whole law, and the fulfilment of 
all the rest of the commandments, according tto the paying 
of the Apostle : He that loveth his neighbour Jiath fulfilled 
the law (Rom. xiii. 8). And thence His beloved disciple 


took this doctrine : he seems to treat of nothing else in his 
canonical epistles, having sucked it in from the breasts of 
his Master. St. Jerome tells of him that when he was 
very old, and could scarcely go to church, but it was neces- 
sary for his disciples to carry him in their arms, his only 
preaching was this : ' ' My sons, love one another. ' ' His 
disciples, wearied and tired of his always repeating the 
same thing, said to him : " Master, why do you always tell 
us that?" He replied, says St. Jerome, in a sentence 
worthy of St. John : " Because it is the Lord's command- 
ment ; and if you fulfil it, that alone is sufficient. ' ' For all 
the law is fulfilled in one 'saying: thou shalt love thy neigh- 
bour as thyself (Gal. v. 14). If you keep this command- 
ment, you keep all. 

St. Augustine here reflects on the weight and stress that 
the Lord laid on this commandment, wishing it to be the 
sign and device by which the world should know us and 
take us for His disciples. In this shall all men know that 
ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another (John 
xiii. 35). Christ our Redeemer does not stop here, but in 
the prayer which He made to His Eternal Father (John 
xvii.), He not only wishes that hereby men should know us 
for His disciples, but also that there should be such a 
union and brotherhood amongst us as to be enough to 
convince the world of the truth of our faith and Religion, 
and that Christ is the Son of God. I ask thee, Eternal 
Father, not only for these my disciples, but also for all 
those who by means of them are to believe in me, that they 
may all be one among themselves, as thou in me and I in 
thee, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me 
(John xvii. 20-1). Could He have said more to heighten the 
excellence of this union and brotherhood, since it is enough 
and should be enough for the world to trust it to be the 
work of the coming of the Son of God into the world, 
and yield itself up to receive the Christian doctrine and 

The truth and force of this is well seen in what happened 
to Pacomius, who being a soldier in the army of Constan- 
tine the Great, and a heathen, had no rations to give to 
his soldiers ; and they were dying of hunger. In this 
plight they came to a town where they met with a kind 


reception, and the townsmen banded together to bring 
them all things needful in such plenty and with such good 
will that Pacomius was amazed, and asked who these 
people were that were so inclined to do good. They 
answered him that they were Christians, whose institute 
it was to harbour all and help all and do them good. He 
lifted up his hands to heaven, and calling God to witness 
he pledged himself to the Christian religion. That was 

his motive for becoming- a convert and believing that this 
was the true faith and religion. 

The Redeemer of the world adds another thing that is 
very consoling : I ask thee, Eternal Father, that they 
may be one with one another, that the world may know 
that thou loyest them as thou lovest me (John xvii. 23). 
One of the chief signs whereby is seen a love of special 
predilection borne by God to a congregation, — a privi- 
leged and singular love on the model and likeness of the 
love that He bears to His own Son,— is His giving them 
this grace of union and brotherhood with one another, as 
we see He gave and imparted it in the primitive Church, 
to those people who enjoyed the first fruits of the Spirit. 
And so says St. John : If we love one another, God abideth 
in us, and his charity is perfect in us (1 John iy. 12). If 
we love one another, it is a sign that God dwells in us and 
loves us much. If where two or three are gathered to- 
gether in my name, there am I in the midst of them, as 
He says (Matt, xviii. 20), what shall it be where so many 
are united and gathered together in His name and for His 
love? In order then that we may enjoy these so many 
good things, and hold this so great assurance of God's 
dwelling in us and loving us with a special love, let us 
endeavour to maintain ourselves always in this charity 
and union. 


Of the need we have of this charity and union, and of 
some means to preserve us in the same 

But above all things have charity, which is the bond of 
perfection (Col. iii. 14). The Apostle St. Paul teaches 
and recommends to us many virtues, but above all, he 
says, I recommend charity, which is the tie and security 
of the life of all. The same does the Apostle St. Peter 
say : Before all things I recommend to you charity and 
unbroken union one with another (1 Pet. iv. 8). Hence 
we can gather of how much importance this virtue is, since 
these holy Apostles and Princes of the Church recommend 
it so much as to say that it is to be above all and before all, 
so that of this we should always make greater account 
than of all other things. 

In the first place it is easy to see the general necessity 
of this charity, for what Religious Order could exist with- 
out union and conformity? And to say nothing of a Re- 
ligious Order, no gathering or community of men could 
continue without some sort of union and order. Take 
away from a multitude all vestige of association and 
order, and what will be left but a Babylon, a City of Con- 
fusion, a Pandemonium? The proverb says : Where there 
is a multitude, there is confusion. Understand this if the 
multitude be without order and union, because, when well- 
ordered and united, it is nothing short of a hierarchy. So 
all gatherings of men and commonwealths, however bar- 
barous they be, always contrive to get some union and 
order, depending all on one head, or on a number who 
stand for one government. We see this even in animals, 
not only in bees, for in them wonderful is the instinct 
which nature has given them in this respect, but even in 
wolves and lions and other wild beasts, for by the very 
instinct of self-preservation they contrive some union, 
since by division they would come to an end and perish. 
Even of the devils themselves, though they are spirits of 
division and sowers of tares, Christ Himself says that we 




must not believe that they are divided among themselves, 
for this very reason : If Satan be divided against himself , 
how shall his kingdom stand? (Luke xi. 18). And to this 
same purpose He alleges there that principle so certain 
and so proved by experience : Every kingdom divided 
against itself shall be laid waste, and house upon house 
shall fall (Luke xi. 17). A kingdom divided against itself 
needs no enemies to destroy and lay it waste : the inhabi- 
tants themselves will go about destroying and levelling 
downi one another, and things will go tumbling over one 
another, So Plato comes to say that there is nothing in 
a commonwealth more pernicious than discord and dis- 
union, nor anything more useful and profitable than peace 
and mutual union. St. Jerome, says this of Religious 
Life, and says it more forcibly. It is this unity and charity, 
he says, which makes Religious be Religious : without it, 
a monastery is a hell and its inmates devils. For what 
greater hell can there be than for people who must be al- 
ways in bodily conjunction with one another and deal with 
one another daily, to. hold different wills and opinions? 
But if there be union and charity,' Religion will be a para- 
dise, on earth, and . they who live therein will be angels, 
beginning here on earth to enjoy the peace and quiet which 
angels enjoy. And St. Basil confirms this statement. 
Men living in Religion, he says, are in that peace 
and charity : and union which makes them like angels, 
among whom there are no lawsuits, nor contentions, nor 
dissensions. St. Lawrence Justinian says that there is 
not here on earth any so lively a presentment of the society 
of heaven and the heavenly Jerusalem as the society 
of Religious united in love and charity. It is a life of 
angels,- a life of heaven. Truly God is in this place, this 
is none other than the house of God and gate of heaven 
(Gen. xxviii. 16-7). 

But to leave generalities and come to the particular 
need that we have of this union and, fraternal charity, our 
Father treating of the means whereby the Society will be 
preserved and augmented in its spiritual good, says, that 
one of the principal means that will aid much thereto will 
be this Union and mutual charity. And besides general 
reasons, which show the necessity of this union in any 


Order and Community, there are particular reasons mak- 
ing it more necessary for us. The first is, because the 
Society is a squadron of soldiers whom God has newly 
sent to support His Church, aid her in the war that she 
wages against the world and the devil, and gain souls for 
heaven. It is this that the patent of our Institute sets 
forth, this is the proclamation made in the Bull of erection 
of our Society : " whoever desires to enlist under the stan- 
dard of the Cross, and give in his name for this service, 
etc." And this it is that is meant by the name of ' Com- 
pany ' which we have taken. We are a company of 
soldiers, we beat our drums, we show our colours, we 
gather recruits to fight against the enemies of the Cross. 
If the squadron be compact and in good order, all acting 
with one accord, they will break through rocks, and none 
will put them to the rout. A very strong thing that ! So the 
Holy Ghost likens the Church to an army terrible in battle 
array (Cant. vi. 3), a squadron well drawn up in phalanx. 
When a squadron is well drawn up, and linked together, 
man with man, it leaves no opening for anyone to break 
through, since all support one another. But disunited 
and disordered, it is a very weak thing, easily broken up, 
readily put to rout. In the Second Book of Kings, David 
by way of saying that he has overcome his enemies says : 
The Lord hath divided mine enemies before me, even as 
waters are divided (2 Kings v. 20). And the mountain 
where this happened was called Baalpharasim, that is, the 
place of division, which shows that to divide and to van- 
quish is one and the same thing, and the place of division 
is taken for the place of victory. Writers on war say that 
an army in confusion and disorder marches to a butchery 
rather than to a battle ; and there is nothing more incul- 
cated in military discipline than not to break or disorder 
the squadron, but make sure that it shall always be well 
united and in order, unit in touch with unit, and every man 
at his post. Not only the common good, but the particu- 
lar good of each individual soldier, depends on this order 
being kept, since with the loss of the squadron the indi- 
vidual will be lost also. 

So it will be in our company and squadron. If we are 
united and back one another up and all agree together, 


we shall break through our enemies, and by none shall we 
be overcome or routed. Brother holpen by brother is as a 
strong city (Prov. xviii. 19). A triple-trilled cord is hardly 
broken (Eccles. iv. 12). When many strings are joined 
together and make one, the result is very strong. In the 
cord of the cross-bow, those threads of which it is com- 
posed have singly little or no strength at all, but many 
together we see that they are strong enough to bend strong 

steel. So shall we be, if we are united and all go tog-ether. 

St. Basil, animating Religious hereto, says : " Consider 
with what union and unanimity these Maccabees fought 
the battles of the Lord." And of those large armies of 
more than three hundred thousand men Holy Scripture 
says in the Books of Kings that they marched out as 
though they were one man (1 Kings xi. 7), since they all 
went with one and the same will and mind, and in this 
way they struck fear and terror into their enemies and 
gained great victories. In this spirit we must fight the 
spiritual wars of the Lord; and so we shall gather great 
fruit of souls by our ministries, and amaze and confound 
our enemies. The devil himself, says St. Basil, will be 
afraid and not dare to attack us, seeing us so united 
against him, and will lose all hope of doing us any harm. 

Our Father puts this for one of the chief reasons why 
this union is particularly necessary for us. " Let union 
and mutual conformity," he says, " be most diligently 
secured, and nothing to the contrary permitted, to the 
end that united to one another by the bond of fraternal 
charity they may be able better and more effectually to 
employ themselves in the service of God arid assistance 
of their neighbour. ' ' And in another place he says that 
without this union the Society cannot be preserved nor 
governed nor gain the end for which it was instituted. It 
is certain that nourishing divisions, parties, or dissensions 
within our own body, not only shall we never attain the 
end of our Institute, which is to gain souls to God, but we 
shall not be able to govern or preserve our own selves. 
If soldiers, who ought to be united to fight against the 
enemy, were to turn to fighting one another, it is clear 
that not only they would not win the war, but they would 
destroy and overthrow themselves. Once they take to 



fighting- amongst themselves, they are lost.- Their 
heart is divided, now they shall perish (Osee x. 2). 
If ye bite and devour one another, see that ye be not eaten 
up by one another (Gal. v. 15). If discords, jealousies, and 
murmurings come in among you, beyond doubt you will 
devour and destroy one another. This is what we have 
to dread in Religion, not enemies from without, nor perse- 
cutions and contradictions that the world may raise 
against us, — they will do us no harm. St.- Bernard says 
very well, speaking on this point to his Religious : ' ' What 
thing from without can come and supervene upon you, 
that can possibly disturb and sadden you, if here within 
all goes well, and you enjoy brotherly peace and charity?" 
And he quotes that saying of the Apostle Peter : Who shall 
be able to harm you, if ye are zealous for good? (1 Pet. 
Hi. 13.) So long as we are what we ought to be, very 
united and brotherly with one another, no contradiction 
or persecution from without will be able to do us any 
harm or prejudice, rather it will help and serve for our 
greater good and improvement, as we read in ecclesiastical 
history of the persecutions which the Church suffered 
from without, that they no more did her harm than the 
pruner harms the vine ; for one twig that they cut off, 
there sprang up others more fruitful. And therefore it 
was a very good thing that one of those holy martyrs said 
to the persecutor, that what he did in shedding the blood 
of the Christians was to lay out the ground for the wheat 
to grow and increase the more. In the Book of Macca- 
bees Holy Scripture praises the Romans for their great 
union and conformity among themselves. They entrust 
their, magistracy every year to one man, and all obey this 
one, and there is no envy nor jealousy among them 
(1 Mace. viii. 16). So long as the Romans remained 
united in this manner among themselves, they were lords 
of the world and brought their enemies under ; but when 
they started civil wars among themselves, they were de- 
stroyed. Hence, the proverb: " By concord, small 
powers grow ; by discord, the greatest fall to pieces. " Con- 
cordia res parvae crescunt, discordia maximae dilabuntur. 

Apart from this, there is a particular reason why we are 
in greater need in the Society of aiming at this union, as our 



Father shows forth in the eighth book of his Constitutions. 
That is, because in the Society there are special difficulties 
and obstacles in the way of securing this union, and there- 
fore it is necessary to back it up more and find remedies 
against these obstacles. The difficulties that there are in 
the Society in this respect our Father reduces to three. 
The first is, from the fact of the Society being so scattered 
and dispersed all over the world among believers and un- 
believers, and its members being so remote and separate 
one from another, mutual knowledge and intercourse and 
union become more difficult; the more so since, embrac- 
ing as the Society does, such different nations, among 
many of whom there is opposition and contrariety, it is 
no easy thing to get rid of an aversion with which one is 
born, and which grows as one grows, and regard a 
stranger, not as a foreigner, but as a son and brother of 
the Society. The second difficulty is, that the men of the 
Society must be for the most part men of letters, and 
knowledge puffs up, and creates in a man a high opinion 
of himself, and small opinion of others; and engenders 
also hardness of heart. St. Thomas says that learned men 
are not usually given to devotion so much as the simple 
and unlettered. Hence there is reason to fear that this 
may cause them to be less loving and brotherly with one 
another, each one following his own opinion and judg- 
ment, and laying himself out in his own line, and seeking 
to procure honour and reputation for himself, which is apt 
to be the root of great disunion and division. The third 
difficulty and impediment, and that not a small one, is 
that these same persons will be men of mark, hobnobbing 
with princes and lords, with city magnates and cathedral 
chapters ; and from these intimacies there are apt to follow 
various party attachments, as also a disposition to seek 
singularities and privileges and exemptions, and not live 
like the rest ; a great prejudice to union and brotherhood. 

Since for greater resistances greater preventives are 
necessary, our Father there lays down means to meet 
these difficulties. The first and most fundamental of all 
is, not to admit and incorporate into the Society men who 
have made no effort to get their vices and passions well 
under, since unmortified folk will not endure discipline, 


order or union. The learned man will be puffed up, will 
want privileges beyond the rest, will seek for the first 
place and take no account of others, will court the favour 
of prince and lord, will want some one to wait upon him ; 
hence will follow at once coteries and divisions. The 
more learned and capable a member of the Society be, if 
he has no great fund of virtue and mortification, the more 
is disunion to be feared and his giving trouble in Religion. 
They say very well that letters and high talents in an un- 
mortified man are like a good sword in the hands of a mad- 
man, to the hurt and harm of himself and others. But 
if learned men are mortified and humble, not seeking 
themselves but the things of Jesus Christ, as St. Paul says 
(Phil. ii. 21), then much peace and union will ensue, since 
their example will be of great benefit to the rest, and will 
draw them to follow in their path. This is the chief means 
of prevention against this and other evils ; and will of 
itself suffice, if well observed. Beyond this, our Father 
goes on to propose other particular means to meet these 
obstacles. To supply the want of mutual intercourse and 
knowledge, owing to our people living so remote and dis- 
tant from one another, he proposes frequent communica- 
tion by edifying letters, such as are usual in the Society. 
By such letters people keep up a good acquaintance with 
one another, and animate one another to a common 
method of action, so far as the diversity of nations will 
allow ; and that is a great aid to union. 

Another very main means our Father lays down to main- 
tain us in this union ; and that is, an exact observance of 
obedience, since obedience binds and unites Religious one 
with another, making of many wills one, and of many 
judgments one judgment. Give up self-will and private 
judgment, as it is given up by obedience, and there re- 
mains one will and judgment common to the Superior and 
to all his subjects. So united with their Superior, sub- 
jects are united among themselves, according to the rule : 
" Things that are equal to a third thing are equal to one 
another." And the more united subjects are with their 
Superior, the more they will be among themselves. Obedi- 
ence and religious discipline and observance of rules is a 
levelling-line that smoothes down and levels all, and 

ch. ii 



causes great order and union. The ancients, to signify 
union, were wont to use the hieroglyphic of a lyre with 
many strings, which by reason of their being in tune and 
concord with the first make a most sweet melody. So a 
community with so many strings attuned to the first, 
which is the Superior, makes a most sweet consonance 
and harmony. And as on a lyre, if there be a single 
string out of tune or strained, that string is lost, and un- 
does the whole of that attunement and harmony, so also 
in Religion, one member out of tune and not in concert 
with his Superior will make all the consonance and har- 
mony of that union go for nothing. Hence some have 
ventured to say that the word concord comes from chord ; 
but they say better who hold that it comes from cor (heart), 
since all have one heart, according to that text in the Acts 
of the Apostles : The multitude of believers had one heart 
and one soul (Acts iv. 32). 

St. Bernard says that as the cause of a ship's leaking 
is the fact of the timbers not being well joined together, or 
well caulked, so also the ruin and destruction of a Reli- 
gious Order comes of the members not being well-joined 
and united one with another by the bond of union and 
fraternal charity. And our Father General Claude Aqua- 
viva, in the letter he wrote on this subject, says that we 
should rhake as much account of this union and charity, 
and guard it with as much care, as though the whole good 
of the Society depended thereon, as indeed it does. And 
Christ our Redeemer, in the farewell prayer that He made 
on the night of His Passion, asked of His Eternal Father 
for us as a thing necessary for our preservation : Holy 
Father, guard them in thy name, that they may be one as 
I and thou are (John xvii. 1 1). And, by the way, let us 
consider in these words the comparison that He makes ; 
as the Son is one with the Father by nature, so He would 
have us be one by love, and that shall be our guard and 


Of some reasons from Holy Scripture binding us to 
keef charity and union with our brethren 

Dearly beloved, if God hath so loved us, so we ought to 
love one another (i John iv. n). The glorious Evangelist 
St. John having declared the great love that God has borne 
us and shown us in giving us His Only begotten Son, 
infers and concludes from thence, and with good reason, 
that we also ought to love one another. Here one might 
very naturally raise a doubt, how from the fact of God 
having loved us so much the Apostle draws an inference 
and conclusion to the love of our neighbour, since it seems 
that he ought only to have inferred and concluded that 
we should love God for having loved us so much. To 
this there are many good answers ; the first, that the 
Apostle did this to show us the excellence of the love of 
our neighbour, and the esteem that God has of it ; as also 
it is said (Matt. xxii. 36 sq.) that when a doctor of the law 
asked Christ our Redeemer, Master, what is the greatest 
commandment of the law? He answered : Thou shalt love 
God with thy whole heart and with thy whole soul and with 
all thy strength: this is the greatest and first of the 
commandments; and He immediately adds : And the 
second is like to this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as 
thyself. They were asking Thee, O Lord, only about the 
first; why dost Thou speak of the second? All to show 
the excellence of the love of our neighbour and the great 
regard God has for it. 

The second answer is, because the love of God and the 
love of Our neighbour are as two rings linked together 
and put upon the finger so that it is impossible to leave 
off one without drawing off the other; they must go to- 
gether. So the love of God and the love of our neighbour 
are always conjoined : the one cannot be without the other, 
because it is by one and the same love of charity that we 
love God and our neighbour for love of God. Thus we 
cannot love God without loving our neighbour, and we 


ch. iii 



cannot love our neighbour with the love of charity without 
loving God at the same time, since God is our reason for 
loving our neighbour. And so to show that in loving our 
neighbour we also love God, the Apostle immediately goes 
on : If we love one another, God also is in us by love, and 
his charity is perfect in us (1 John iv. 12). And to show 
us that in the love of God there is included also the love 
of our neighbour, he says ; This commandment we have of 
God, that he who loveth God must also love his brother 
(1 John iv, 21). The love that God bears to men, and the 
desire that He has of our also loving Him, and the store 
that He sets by it, is shown in a strong light by th« fact 
that we cannot love God without loving our neighbour, nor 
offend our neighbour without offending God. 

If a king were to love a courtier of his so much as 
always to put himself in front of him when any sought to 
injure or murder him, so that they could not touch nor 
hurt the" coUrtier, nor attack him with musket or sword, 
without wounding and hurting the king first, would not 
that be an extraordinary lOve? Now this is what God does 
for men : He puts Himself ever in front of them, so that 
you cannot offend your neighbour without offending Him, 
to the end that you may beware of offending your brother 
for fear of offending God. He who toucheth you, says 
the Lord, toucheth the apple of mine eye (Zach. ii. 8). 
ThuSj offending our neighbour, we offend God; and 
loving our neighbour, we love God ; and loving God, 
we love our neighbour. Since then the love of God and 
the love of our neighbour always go together, and the 
one is included in the other, and they never can be divided 
or separated, St. John was able to infer and conclude to 
either of these loves, because in asking of us the one he 
asked the other also. But the reason why he inferred and 
concluded expressly to the love of our neighbour and not 
to "the love of God, was because the debt of loving God is a 
principle per se notum, manifest and known of itself, and 
principles are known and not proved, only conclusions. 
And so he drew the conclusion of love of our neighbour,: 
and stated it expressly, because one would not be certain 
to draw it. 

The third reason is, because St. John in his epistle is not 



speaking of a love bare and dry, but of a fruitful' and 
profitable love, accompanied with benefits and good 
works. So he says : My little children, let us not love in 
word or tongue only, but in deed and truth (i John iii. 18), 
for that is true love. And to give us to understand that 
God requires these good works on behalf of our neigh- 
bours and brethren, according to that saying of Osee 
quoted in the holy gospel : I would have mercy and not 
sacrifice (Osee vi. 6 : Matt. xii. 7), for this reason did he 
draw expressly the conclusion of loving our neighbour. 
Thus an absent creditor writes a letter to his debtor : 
' What you owe me, I shall be glad if you will give it to 
So and So, who is there with you, because it is one thing 
whether you give it him or me, and I take it as received. ' 
In this way St. John says in the name of God our creditor, 
to whom we are indebted for so much love and so many 
benefits : // God hath so much loved us, we also ought to 
love one another (1 John iv. n). Since God has loved us 
so much, and we owe Him so much, let us love our neigh- 
bours and brethren, since God has transferred to their 
credit the debt that we owe Him. 

The charity and good work which you do to your neigh- 
bour, you do it to God, and He takes it as done to Him- 
self. Verily I say to you, that when ye have done this 
thing to one of these my least brethren, ye have done it 
to me, says Christ Himself (Matt. xxv. 40). This is another 
motive, and a very powerful one, for loving and doing 
good to our brethren, since in this way it will come about 
that, though looking at them we seem to owe nothing to any 
of them, yet looking at God and the greatdebtweoweHim, 
wherein He has yielded and made over His right to our 
neighbour, we shall recognise ourselves as bound to that 
neighbour even to being his bond-slaves. And so Father 
Master Avila says very well : ' ' When your flesh uses this 
language to you : ' What do I owe to that man to do him 
any good, and how ever shall I love him, seeing he has 
done evil to me?' answer that perhaps you would listen if 
the motive of your love was your neighbour himself ; but 
since it is Christ, who takes as done to Himself the good 
or evil done to your neighbour, on what side can there be 
anything to bar the course of love and good works, be 

ch. iv 



my neighbour whoever he may be, or do me whatever evil 
he will, since I keep no account with him, but with 
Christ?" Hence that is quite a good inference of the 
Apostle, putting in the premise the great love that God 
has borne us, and thence concluding to our duty of loving 
our neighbour. And to move us and persuade us more 
to this love, he puts into the same premise the mystery of 
the Incarnation : Because God hath sent his only Son into 

the World (1 John iv. 9) : to remind us and make us reflect 

that God has allied Himself with mankind, and so we 
should look upon our fellow-men as akin to God and 
brothers of Jesus Christ, and love them as such. 

Of the manner and character of the union which, we 
ought to have with our brethren 

The glorious Saints and Doctors of the Church, Basil 
and Augustine, declare to us very well what should be the 
union that we should keep with our brethren, by the com- 
parison and metaphor which St. Paul draws from the 
human body and the conformity and union of its members 
one with another. See, they say, the union and con- 
formity that obtains between the members of our body, 
and how they help and serve one another, the eye the foot, 
the foot the hand ; how the hand defends the head ; and 
when they tread on your foot, the tongue says, ' see how 
you are treading on me' ; how they all rush to the help of 
the weaker part, as may be seen if you have any wound or 
any other necessity. Each takes to itself what it needs 
for its sustenance, and gives to another what is over. And 
what 'sympathy, 1 as the doctors call it, there is, so that if 
the stomach is out of order, the head suffers ; and when 
one member recovers its health, the whole body is glad 
and rejoices. God hath so tempered the body that the 
members are solicitous for the good estate of one another, 
says St. Paul, so that if one member is suffering, all the 
rest suffer with it; and if one is whole, all the rest rejoice 
(1 Cor. xii. 24-6). St. Augustine reflects on this very well : 
'.' What is there in the whole body further from the eyes 


than the foot ? Yet when the foot treads on a thorn, 
thrusting it in, at once the eyes look for the thorn, the 
body stoops down, and the tongue asks, ' Where is it?' 
At once the hand applies itself to draw it out. The eyes 
are all right, the hand is all right, the body, head, tongue, 
and even the foot is all right everywhere else except in 
one little point painful, where the thorn is, and yet all the 
members are full of compassion, and rush to the rescue 
with great solicitude ; and when it is put right, all rejoice. " 
Now in this way we should behave towards our brethren, 
one looking after another as after himself, rejoicing at the 
good of others, and compassionating the troubles of others 
as our own. 

In these two things, says St. Basil, there is chiefly seen 
the love and charity that we bear to one another, — if we 
are distressed and full of compassion at the afflictions and 
spiritual and corporal troubles of our neighbour, and re- 
joice in his good, according to the saying of the Apostle : 
Rejoice with them that rejoice, weep with them that weep 
(Rom. xii. 15). And so says St. John Climacus : " If any 
one wishes to examine the charity and love he has for his 
neighbour, let him see if he weeps over his faults, and is 
glad of his graces and spiritual progress." This is a 
very good sign Of our love of our neighbour. A 
holy woman used to say : " My soul received more grace 
of God when I wept and grieved for the sins of my neigh- 
bour than when I wept for my own " : not that a man 
ought not to feel and grieve more for his own sins than for 
the sins of his neighbour, but to give us to understand 
by this exaggeration how grateful to God is this exercise 
of charity towards our neighbour. St. Bernard says that 
these two exercises are the two breasts of Christ's spouse 
between which He rests (Cant. i. 12) : both the one and the 
other has its own milk, sweet and savoury as honey, the 
one of congratulation and exhortation, the other of com- 
fort and consolation. 

, There is further to be considered in this comparison of 
St. Paul, on the one hand, the diversity of members and 
their differences in condition and quality, since some are 
eyes, some feet, others hands, each holding his own dis- 
tinct office ; and on the other hand we are to consider the 


union and brotherhood there is among- them in so high a 
degree, each being content with the office that he holds, 
without envy of any other, though higher. So we must 
behave : each one must be content with the office that he 
holds, and not envy those who have higher offices and 

Further, never did a superior member despise an in- 
ferior, but valued it, aided and defended it all in its power. 
So those who hold higher ministries must not despise 
those who hold lower ministries and offices, but value 
them, aid them, and have great consideration for them, as 
for members whereof we have need. The eye cannot say 
to the hand, nor the head to the foot, I have no need of 
thee : rather God has in such manner tempered and ordered 
the members of the body that those which seem the lowest 
and feeblest are the very ones of which we stand in 
greatest need (i Cor. xii. 21-2). Just consider the feet, 
and what a breakdown we should come to, if they were 
to fail us. The Lord has ordained all this, says St. Paul, 
in His high wisdom and providence, that there be no 
schism or division between the members of the body, ut 
non sit schisma in corpore (1 Cor. xii. 2,5), but great union 
and conformity. So it is here in this body of Religion, 
that some hold the office of head, others of eyes, others 
of feet and hands ; nor can the head say that it has no 
need of the hands, nor the eyes that they have no need 
of the feet, rather it seems that they are just the com- 
ponent that we need most, to be able to live and do any- 
thing in Religion: so we are wont to say of them that they 
are our feet and hands, because without them it seems we 
can do nothing. And this has been a high providence of 
God, that there should be no schism amongst us, but much 
union and conformity. 

This is the portrait of true, union and charity ; and hence 
we must learn how we are to aid and serve one another, 
which is a thing that goes a long way to the preservation 
and augmentation of union, and so the Apostle St. Paul 
much recommends it to us : by charity of spirit serve one 
another (Gal. v. 13). Thus it is great praise in Religion 
to be an obliging person, ready to serve and aid and give 
satisfaction to all : it shows charity and humility and mor- 

1 82 


tification : and not to be, as some are, who for want of 
mortification and readiness to take a little trouble and go 
a bit out of their way have no idea of giving pleasure and 
satisfaction to their brothers. In that so heroic act of 
Christ our Redeemer in washing the feet of His disciples, 
no doubt He meant to give us an example of humility, but 
of humility conjoined with the exercise of charity and 
brotherly love. If I have served you and washed your feet, 
I your Lord and Master, it will be only right that you 
should do the same for one another (John xiii. 14). I have 
given you an example how you are to behave to one 
another, and how you are to serve and aid one another in 
humility and charity. 


Here we begin to declare in particular what it is that 
union and fraternal charity requires of us, and what 
will help us to keep it 

Charity is patient and kind, charity envieth none, 
worketh no evil, is not puffed up, seeketh not her own 
interest (1 Cor. xiii. 4). Union and fraternal charity re- 
quires the exercise of all the virtues; for what hinders 
and makes war on it is envy, ambition, impatience, self- 
love, want of mortification and the like. Thus, to pre- 
serve it in us, there is needed the exercise of the contrary 
virtues. That is what St. Paul teaches us, in these words, 
and so the only thing needed will be to declare them 

Charity is patient, charity is kind. These two things, 
to suffer and to do good to all, are very important and 
necessary to preserve this mutual union and charity. For 
as we are men and full of defects and imperfections, we 
all give occasion enough for others to suffer at our hands ; 
and as on the other hand we are so weak and so needy, 
we need others to help us and do us good. And so the 
Apostle says that in this way charity will be preserved, 
and the commandment of Christ accomplished by our 
aiding one another and overlooking one another's failings. 
Bear ye one another's burdens, and so ye shall fulfil the 

CH. V 



law of Christ (Gal. vi. 2). St. Augustine on these words 
makes a good comparison to this purpose. Naturalists 
write, he says, that stags, when they want to swim across 
a river, or an arm of the sea, to go in search of pasture 
on some island, dispose and arrange themselves in. this 
way. Since their heads are so heavy by reason of their 
antlers, they all draw up in single file, and each one to 
lighten his fatigue rests his head on the haunches of him 
before him, and so they help one another. Thus they are 
all eased by resting their heads on someone else. Only 
the first stag has his head in the air, suffering this fatigue 
to lighten that of his companions. And that he may not 
be so very much fatigued either, when he gets tired, he 
drops from first to last, and the one behind him takes his 
duty for another little while, and so they go on changing 
until they reach the shore. In this way we must aid and 
succour one another ; each must make it his aim to ease 
another's burden and lighten his fatigue so far as is 
possible. This is what charity requires ; and to withdraw 
one's own person from fatigue, and leave the burden to 
another, shows a want of charity. The more you do, the 
more, you merit : you are doing something for yourself. 

St. Augustine says there that one of, the things in 
which charity is proved and becomes most apparent is in 
suffering and bearing the ill-humours and imperfections 
of our neighbours. Supporting one another in charity, 
solicitous to preserve, the unity of the spirit in the bond of 
peace (Eph. iv. 2, 3). Charity suffereth all, and taketh 
all upon herself (1 Cor. xiii. 7) ; and thereby is preserved. 
If you do not know how to suffer and have patience with 
and support your brethren, be sure that your charity can- 
not last, for all your multiplied considerations and 
methods and remedies. If natural love and fleshly love 
suffer the importunate demands of a sick man, as we see 
in the case of a mother attending her son or husband in 
sickness, more reason is there that the spiritual love of 
charity should be able to suffer and support the importuni- 
ties and weaknesses of our brethren. And remember, says 
St. Augustine, that this office and exercise of charity is 
not to last for ever, because in the other life there will be 
no occasion of suffering or overlooking the failings of our 


brethren : therefore let us suffer them and overlook their 
failings in this life, to deserve to gain the life that is ever- 
lasting. Let us not consider the lengthening out of fime, 
because the work after all will last but a short time, and 
the reward we shall receive will last for ever. So im- 
portant are these two things, to suffer and to succour our 
brethren, and aid them and do them good, that St. Augus- 
tine goes so far as to say that Christian life is summed 
up in these two things ; and with reason, since Christian 
life exists by charity, and in this is included all the law, 
as Christ our Redeemer says (Matt. xxii. 40) ; and so what 
sums up charity, sums up Christian life. 

Again, the Apostle St. Paul says : Charity is not puffed 
up nor proud. Love and friendship knows no such thing 
as pride and haughtiness, rather it causes a great equality 
among those who love one another. Hence the saying of 
the Wise Man : I will not be ashamed of saluting a friend 
(Ecclus. xxii. 31). With a friend we keep no ceremonies, 
we stand on no points of honour, friend does not look at 
friend to see whether he is the first to show courtesy. No 
one is ashamed of doing honour and an act of courtesy 
to a friend, and doing it first, because among friends there 
is great equality and straightforwardness : love knows 
nothing of these precedences. And so Aristotle said that 
friendship must be among equals. And another said : 
" Majesty and love go not well together." 

Non bene conveniunt nec in una sede morantur 

Majestas et amor. 
To sit on a throne and wield great authority, that is not 
compatible with friendship. You have to abase yourself, 
and humble yourself, and put yourself on an equality with 
your friend, if you are to have true friendship, for a friend 
is a second self. 

Even in God the love that He bore to men had such 
power as to make Him abase Himself and put Himself on 
an equality with them. Thou hast made him a little less 
than the angels (Ps. 8) : Thou hast made Him man as we 
are ; and so He says to us : I will not now call you ser- 
vants, but friends (John xv. 15), which implies some man- 
ner of equality. See the tenderness of the love of Christ. 
Even here we do not say : ' So and So is a friend of the 


King,' though he be a great personage, a marquis or a 
duke, but ' So and So is very intimate with the King,' 
since to say ' friend ' implies a sort of equality. A God 
of infinite majesty has been pleased to make Himself so 
thoroughly man amongst men, and has loved us so much, 
that He calls us not ' servants,' but ' friends ' in so many 
words. So here in Religion charity has no idea of anything 
like haughtiness, but must needs cause a great equality 
and straightforwardness amongst all. This same equality, 
which is an effect of love, helps much to preserve and aug- 
ment charity and union. One helps the other, and hence 
it is that where there is humility and straightforwardness 
among all, it is a sign of great union and brotherly 
affection. And so we see by the goodness of the Lord in 
the Society that as charity shines forth, so also there 
shines forth this equality and straightforwardness amongst 
all ' ' everyone desiring and seeking to yield the prefer- 
ence to others, esteeming all in his heart as if they were 
better men than himself." (Rule 29.) And he who was 
somebody in the world feels more honoured and rejoices 
more, as St. Augustine says, in the company of his poor 
brothers than in the dignity and nobility of his wealthy 
parents, for what he values and esteems is virtue, and all 
the rest he counts for nothing. 

St. Ambrose observes very well what a help this is to 
the preservation of charity. These are his words : — " It 
goes a long way towards strengthening charity, when, ac- 
cording to the Apostle's teaching (Rom. xii. 10), men try 
to gain ground one on another, who shall get the start 
at honouring another and giving another the advantage; 
when every man takes every other man for his superior; 
when subjects love to serve, and superiors know not 
what it is to be haughty ; when the poor man makes no 
difficulty of the rich being preferred before him, and the 
rich man delights in putting the poor on a level with him- 
self; when men of rank are not proud of their quality and 
lineage, and men of meaner origin do not vaunt them- 
selves on being men as much as the noble ; lastly, when 
not more deference is paid to great wealth than to good 
character, nor do the power and decorations of the unjust 
go for more than the unrequited honesty of the upright." 

Of two other conditions of charity and union 

Charity, says the Apostle, is not envious (i Cor. xiii. 4) : 
rather he who really loves another desires his good and 
his prosperity as much as if it were his own. The glorious 
St. Augustine declares this by the example of Jonathan 
and the great love that he bore to David. Holy Writ 
says : The soul of Jonathan was joined and united with 
the soul of David: one heart and one soul was made of 
both, because Jonathan loved David as his own soul 
(1 Kings xviii. 1). And the consequence thereat was that, 
though he was the son of the king, he sought the king- 
dom rather for David than for himself. Thou shalt be 
king of Israel, and after thee I will be second (1 Kings 
xxiii. 17). Jonathan rejoiced in the good of David as 
though it were his own. The Saints allege another ex- 
ample, which shows more the property and effect of 
charity, the example of the Blessed in heaven. There in 
heaven there is no envy of others being greater than one- 
self ; rather, if so it might be, each would wish his neigh- 
bour greater glory, and would share his own with him, 
and that his inferior should be his equal or greater than 
he, because each one rejoices in the glory of another as 
though it were his own. And this is not so very difficult 
to understand, because if here on earth the natural love of 
mothers makes them rejoice as much in the good of their 
children as if it were their own, how much more will that 
heavenly love do, being so much more excellent and per- 
fect? Let us then rejoice in the good of another as much 
as if it were our own, for that is the proper effect of charity. 

To invite and animate us thereto, St. Augustine ob- 
serves that charity and love make their own the good of 
others, not despoiling any one of it, but simply by being 
glad and rejoicing over it. And there is not much to won- 
der at in what he says ; for if by loving another's sin and 
rejoicing therein a man makes that sin his own, because 
God sees the heart (1 Kings xvi. 7), what wonder is it that 
by loving another's goodness and rejoicing therein he also 
makes that his own, especially as God is more ready to 



reward than to punish? Let us then consider and weigh 
this truth, — on the one hand what an excellent thing 
charity is, and what great gain and profit we make there- 
by, since in that way we can make our own all the good 
works of our brethren by merely rejoicing and taking com- 
placency therein, and that even with greater security than 
in the case of our own good works, since no vainglory 
can arise from them as from our own ; and on the other 
hand let us consider what an evil thing envy is and how 
pernicious, since it turns a neighbour's good to our own 
evil. Thus we are led to make it our effort to shun the 
one and embrace the other. 

Hence follows the second particular, which the Apostle 
adds at once : Charity is not ambitious, nor seeketh her 
own interests : any one must be far removed from that, 
who takes his neighbour's good for his own, and rejoices 
therein as though it were his own. One of the things that 
make the greatest war on charity and mosthinderthis union 
is self-love, or self-seeking, the looking after one's own 
conveniences and interests. For this reason our Father calls 
self-love a most grievous and deadly enemy of all order 
and union. Humbert on the Rule of St. Augustine calls 
it the bane of common and Religious life, infecting and 
ruining everything. And although it is true that this self- 
love is the general enemy of all the virtues, yet it is par- 
ticularly the enemy of this. Indeed the very name tells 
us this : for if it is the love of self, it is not the love of the 
community, which is the love of charity. Self-love is divi- 
sion, it is something private and particular, it wants every- 
thing for itself, it seeks itself in all, which is the direct 
contrary of charity and union. 

Upon what the Scripture tells us of Abraham and Lot, 
that the land could not hold them living together (Gen. 
xiii. 6), — each owning so many head of cattle that the 
land was too narrow to afford them pasture, and so the 
shepherds of the one quarrelled with the shepherds of the 
other, and it was necessary for peace sake for the two 
to go apart, — St. Chrysostom observes : " Where there is 
mine and thine, at once there are lawsuits and occasions 
of contention and discord even among kinsmen and 
brothers; but where this is not the case, peace and con- 



cord are safe. " Ubi est meum et tuum, ibi omnium litium 
genus et contentionis occasio ; ubi autem haec non sunt, 
ibi. secura versatur pax et concordia. So we see, says the 
Saint, that in the primitive Church there was great union 
and concord among the faithful ; they had all one soul and 
one heart, because there was no mine and thine amongst 
them, but all things were in common (Acts iv. 32). That 
is the reason why there was among them so much har- 
mony and union. And therefore all Religious Orders, 
inspired by God and founded on Scripture, have laid 
down poverty for their first and principal foundation. Of 
this we make our first vow, that there being no mine or 
thine, and self-love finding nothing to settle upon, we may 
all have one heart and one soul. 

No doubt it is a great help to the preservation of charity 
and union amongst us, to have divested and despoiled 
ourselves of all the goods of the world. But it is not 
enough to have no mine and thine in these temporal 
things : it is necessary that we should not have them in 
other things either, for if we have them, that will make 
war on us and be an obstacle to this union and charity. If 
you seek honour and reputation for yourself, if you desire 
the higher post, if you go about in quest of your own grati- 
fications and conveniences, thereby you will come to dis- 
unite yourself from and disagree with your brethren : that 
is what commonly makes war on charity. Thence it 
comes that you are smitten with a sort of envy at seeing 
your brother display talent, shine and receive praise, be 
looked up to and made much of, because you will want 
that honour and estimation for yourself, and think that 
the other robs you of it. Hence also arises joy, or at 
least an indescribable feeling of satisfaction, when another 
does not succeed in some affair, because you fancy that 
thereby he is being humbled and marked as inferior to 
you. Hence it befalls you at times to seek to throw your 
brother into the shade directly or indirectly, sometimes in 
an argument, sometimes by sundry little words that slip 
out unbidden and spring from the abundance of what you 
have in your heart. All this sort of thing is disorderly 
self-love, ambition, pride and envy, which are the mag- 
gots apt to destroy union and mutual charity. Charity,. 

ch. vii 



says the Apostle, rejoiceth not in evil, but rejoiceth in 
truth. Charity takes no delight in the depreciation of" 
others, but wishes them to rise and win arid advance to 
greater things, and the greater the better. You are our 
brother, may you go> on with a blessing upon you a thou- 
sand and a thousand times : that shall be my joy and my 
contentment (Gen. xxiv. 60). A merchant trading for a 
company is nowise distressed at the gains that his part- 
ners make, nor at the good industry wherewith they make 
them ; rather he rejoices greatly thereat, because it all 
turns to his own profit and to that of the whole company. 
So we should rejoice at any good done, or talent displayed, 
or forward step taken by our brothers, since it all comes 
to turn and redound to the good and profit of the whole 
of that body of the Society, a member and part whereof 
I am and the good things whereof I enjoy. / - $"6^- 


Of another thing that charity requires, and which will 
help much to preserve it, which is to have and show a 
great esteem for our brothers and always speak well 
of them 

Charity and love of one another must not be only in- 
terior in the heart, but must show itself also in works, 
according to that text of Scripture : Whoever seeth his 
brother in need, and nevertheless closeth his heart to shut 
him out, how shall we say that the charity of God is in 
him? (1 John iii. 17). When we are in heaven, as we shall 
have no wants, says St. Augustine, these works will not 
be necessary for the preservation of charity. Fire there 
being in its own sphere has no need of fuel and wood to 
keep it in ; but here below without them it quickly goes 
out : so also here irt this miserable life charity will readily 
die out, in the absence of works to maintain and preserve 
itT St. Basil here applies to this purpose what the Apostle 
and Evangelist St. John says in his first Canonical 
Epistle : In this we know the great love that God has 
borne us, in that he has given his life for us ; and so ought 


we to give our life for our brethren (i John iii. 16), if it 
be necessary. St. Basil very well infers from thence : 
" If the love that Christ asks us to bear to our brethren 
must go so far as to give our life for them, with much 
more reason should it be extended to other things, which 
commonly offer, and are of less difficulty than giving our 
life for them." 

One of the principal things which this union and charity 
requires, and a thing that will help much to preserve it 
and carry it on further, is to have a high esteem of our 
brethren. Rather, this is the foundation on which this 
whole structure of charity is founded and planted. It is 
not a love of fancy, which goes blindly, nor a love of 
mere tenderness and sentiment, arising from this heart of 
flesh which we carry, but a love of reason, a spiritual love 
of the higher part of the soul, which regards higher and 
eternal reasons. It is that love which we call apprecia- 
tive, which springs from the love that we bear to God, 
whom we set above all things, and value our neighbour 
as a thing belonging to God. From the esteem and good 
opinion that we have of our brethren it comes to pass that 
we love them and honour them and reverence them, and 
do all other offices and practices of charity. So far as 
this esteem goes, so far also will go our love and all that 
follows upon love. So says St. Paul, writing to the Philip- 
pians : let us at heart esteem all as if they were our 
betters (Phil. ii. 3) : that is the root and foundation of all 
this growth. And writing to the Romans he says : Let 
us vie with one another for the first turn in honouring one 
another (Rom. xii. 10). The glorious Chrysostom observes 
that he does not say simply that we should honour one 
another, but that we should get the start of one another in 
this office. It is not my policy to wait until the other man 
shows c o urtesy to m e, and takes notice of me first ; every 
pne should aim at getting the start of h i s neighbour and 
winning the first turn. This is what our Holy Father 
commends to us in his Rule : " in all things endeavouring 
and desiring to yield the better share to others." This is 
winning the first turn in honouring one another. 

To come now more to details, one of the things b y 
which we ought to endeavour to show a hig h opinion of 

ch. vii 


our brethren is by always speaking of them well and re- 
spectfully, and in words that witness the appreciation and 
regard we have of them. Of our blessed Father Ignatius we 
read that every one was convinced that he had a good 
opinion of him and loved him as a father. The result was 
that all also had for him much love and respect. Therejs 
nothin g that so ki nd les cha rity and._PJgserves_it^as^the 

^^^^s^^^^^^^^_^m. How^n^ny^ooaTeffects 
spring tEerefrom ! And so says Seneca there : *' If you 
wish to ; be loved, love." There is no more efficaciou s 
means to be lQve d, sinc e love cannot repay but by oth er 
love. " ' • ~ ~ : ~~ ' 

. ; St. Chrysostom notes this well On those words of 
Christ : What you toish other men to do to you, do it you 
to them (Matt. vii. 12). The Saint says : " Would you- 
receive benefits? Do benefits to others. Would you ob- 
tain mercy? Show it to your neighbour. Would you be 
praised:? Praise others. Would you be loved? Love. 
Would you that men should yield you the preference and 
the better thing and the place of greater honour ? Be you 
the first to yield it, and contrive to give it to others." 
Vis beneficia caper e? Confer beneficium alter i. Vis 
misericordiam consequi? Miserere proximi. Vis laudari? 
Lauda alium. Vis amari? Amu. Vis partibus primis 
potiri? Cede Mas prius alteri. 

\ Besides, this speaking well of others is a thing that 

f ives great edification ; and the reason why it edifies is 
ecause it is a sign of the presence of great love and great 
union* And contrariwise, any little word which directly 
or indirectly may throw another into the shade and take 
the shine out of him, — the least breath of such a thing 
felt amongst us, — wouM be matter of great disedification, 
since people would at once gather that there was there 
some rivalry and envy ; and consequently anything redo- 
lent of this should be far from us. Suppose your brother 
has his defects, it is hard if he has not some good point 
about him. Take hold of this, and leave that. Imitate 
the ; bee, who lights upon flowers only, not minding the 
thorns that surround them, and follow not the example 
of the beetle, which goes straight for the dung-hill. 


That we ought much to beware of telling another, ' So 
and So has said this and that of you,' where it may 
give him any offence . 

My intention is not at present to speak/61 detraction, 
because I shall treat of it in another place : here we shall 
only notice one thing of great importance, which serves 
our purpose. As one ought to take particular care not to 
speak ill of another, so when we hear anythi ng said of 
another that may give him any disjpleasure or resentm ent, 
we ought al so to take ca re not to tel l him : ' Such a one 
has spoken thus and thus of you,' for this serves only to 
exasperate minds and sow discord amongst brethren, a 
thing very pernicious and much abhorred of God. Six 
things the Lord hateth, and the seventh He abhorreth with 
all his heart, and holdeth in abomination, the sower of dis- 
cord amongst brethren (Prov. vi. 16-19). As we say we ab- 
hor a thing with all our heart, so the Scripture uses the like 
human language of God, to signify the height of His dis- 
pleasure against such men. But if God detests such as 
these, men abhor them also. The talebearer, says the Wise 
Man, shall defile his own soul, and shall be hated in all 
company ; and he that dealeth with him shall also be hated 
(Ecclus. xxi. 31). These are they that get the name of 
talebearers : this it is to go in for talebearing, a thing un- 
worthy of men of probity, much more of Religious. Never 
give occasion to any one, says Ecclesiasticus (v. 16), to 
be able to say that you are a talebearer. What can b e a 
more pernici ous and pr ejudicial thing in a ^nTmumty than 
to be a scandalmonger , and to go a bout maki ng your 
brethren fall foul of one another? That Js doing the 
devil's w ork, for that is his, office^ 

And be it oTjserveoTiiere that to set one person against 
another, it is not ne£ejsajxth^t_the_things tcW^b^_grave : \. 
jyer^jyjjalLanjJji^^ \ 
amount even to venialsms J _areenougJi^for that. "So it is J 
Ij&iSS^wfT^ whether./ 


I- <?. j j fn. Acad 4. $ /tny ^iCtyu. ^hu^ (4t a, J<Z<cfv^ 



the thing said or related be of itself grave or light, but 
whether it is a thing likely to upset or irritate your brother, 
and cause in him some dislike of or alienation from the 
man who said that. Someone has been thoughtless in 
saying a little word that gave others to understand some- 
thing that was less to the credit of another in point of 
learning, or capacity, or virtue, or talent, or something , 
like -that, and with still greater thoughtlessness off you go 
to tell it to the person spoken of : you see now what resent- 
ment you may have excited in him : you thought you were 
doing nothing, and you stabbed him to the heart. The 
words of the talebearer seem simple, and they penetrate to 
the inmost bowels (Prov. xxvi. 22). There are some things 
that some people are wont to make nothing of, because 
they look at them' from I know not what point of view, or 
the fact is that they do not look at them at all ; but looked 
at from the point of view from which they should be 
looked at they present such a different appearance that 
there is much fear and doubt that they amount to mortal 
sin, for the inconveniences and evil effects that follow 
from them ; and this is one of those things. 

Now if to say these things and sow these discords 
amongst brethren is a thing so prejudicial and pernicious, . 
and so much abhorred of God, what must it be to sow /JfJ&k 
these tares between subjects and their Superior, and cause . 
disunion between the members and the head, between fy • ^Z- / t 
parents and children ! how much more abominable is ^L^V 
this in the sight of God ! Now this is done also when 
similar language is used of the Superior. Great was the , 
love and obedience that King David's subjects paid him, 
and quite united they were with him ; but when they heard 
evil spoken of him and his government maligned by a 
wicked son of his, Absalom, they refused obedience and 
rose up against him (2 Kings xv.). Oh how many times 
does it happen that when one is living in right down good 
faith, and putting much trust in his Superior, and judging 
well of all that he does, and trusting to him his soul, and 
discovering to him his whole heart, by some light word 
that another says all this edifice is thrown down, and in its 
place there succeed a thousand sleights of malice and 
duplicity, rash judgments, fits of reserve, murmurings ; 

rt- % L^ttkJ if Ud J 



and sometimes this plague spreads so far that it infects 
this one and that one, and that one and another, and 
another and another. It is beyond belief what harm is 
done by a few light words like these. 

But someone will say : it is a good thing at times for 
a person to know what is remarked and said of him, that 
he may tread warily and not give occasion. That is true : 
then you may tell him the thing, but without letting him 
know who has said it, and that though it has been said in 
public, that none may excuse himself by saying that 
another would have told him before long. Let every one 
look to himself. Woe to him by whom the scandal cometh 
(Matt, xviii. 7). And though the other importune you 
much to let him know who said it, and you know the 
information would be a great gratification to his curiosity, 
still you must not tell him : it is a mistake sometimes to 
give such satisfaction to a friend. That is no good friend- 
ship, because you do him harm by telling him, and do 
the other harm as well, and still more harm to yourself, 
because you are left with a scruple about the harm that 
you have done to the one and the other. 

The harm and bad consequences of such a disclosure 
may be well understood by this, that when one makes 
known anyone's fault to the Superior that by his fatherly 
care and providence he may be able to apply a proper 
remedy, according to the rule we have on this matter, he 
does not want the culprit to understand that it was he who 
made it known ; and the Superior does his best, and ought 
to do his best, to make sure of this secrecy, as his rule 
recommends, that this may not be the cause of any bitter- 
ness or dislike among the brethren. Now if when this is 
done lawfully and according to rule, and with charity and 
desire of greater good, there still are these fears, and it 
is needful to proceed with caution, with how far greater 
reason are these awkward consequences to be appre- 
hended when one discovers to another who it was that 
spoke of his fault, doing this not lawfully, nor according 
to rule, but carelessly and indiscreetly and stupidly, 
and perchance sometimes with some emulation or envy, or 
on other considerations not good, or at least which the 
other might imagine to be not good ! St. Augustine 

CH. ix 



highly praises his mother St. Monica upon this account, 
that when she heard often on one side and another com- 
plaints and words of resentment and rancour, she never 
told anything she had heard of one to the other, but only 
what might smooth them down and remove their rancour 
and go to unite and reconcile them. So we ought to act, 
being ever angels of peace. 


That good and fair words help very much to preserve 
charity, while their contraries have a contrary effect 

Among the things that contribute very much to pre- 
serve and augment fraternal charity, are soft and fair 
words. A sweet word multiplieth friends and appeaseth 
enemies, says the Wise Man ; and, on the contrary, A harsh 
word raiseth tip fury (Eeclus. vi. 5 : Prov. xv. 1). Hard, 
rough and bitter language awakens ill-will and causes dis- 
union : for we are men, and feel such language, and are 
put out and stving thereby: henceforth we look not upon 
our brother as we did before, we view his conduct in an evil 
light, and perhaps speak ill of him. This being so, it is 
of very great importance that our discourse be always so 
seasoned with sweetness and affability, that thereby we 
may gain the good will of our brethren, according to the 
saying of Ecclesiasticus : A prudent man maketh himself 
amiable in his words (Ecclus. xx, 13). In the first place 
we must observe as the foundation of all that is to be 
said, that none should deceive himself herein by saying : 
' My brothers are very virtuous men, and will not be 
shocked nor tried by one light word, be it a trifle haughty 
or ungracious; they will not mind that.' The question is 
not what your brothers are or ought to be, but what you 
ought to be, and how you should behave to them. If you 
say, they will not be angry for so small a thing, " the 
smaller it is," answers St. Bernard, " the easier it is for 
you to abstain from it. " St. Chrysostom says this rather 
aggravates your fault, that you did not take means to 
overcome yourself in so light a matter. You should not 


be naughty because your brother is good. Is thy eye evil, 
says our Saviour, because I am good? (Matt. xx. 15). I 
say then that we ought to have a good opinion of all our 
brethren, and not believe they are so thin-skinned as to 
be angry for any small matter; but this does not exempt 
us from using as much caution and moderation in dealing 
with them as if they were more brittle than glass, and the 
weakest creatures in the world, not giving them on our 
part any occasion of annoyance or irritation, however 
weak or imperfect they may be. And this caution we 
should keep for two reasons, — one reason touching our- 
selves : because however much virtue another has, that 
does not make our action cease to be our fault ; and again, 
for a second reason, touching our neighbour : because not 
all people on all occasions are so well disposed, or so well 
in form, as not to be sensible of the offences we commit 
against them. Everyone may know by himself what 
words, or manner of saying them, may please or displease 
his brother, following the rule which the Holy Ghost gives 
us by the mouth of the Wise Man : Judge of thy neighbour 
by thyself (Ecclus. xxxi. 18). Let everyone consult him- 
self, and see whether he be content that they 
should speak coldly of him, that they should answer 
him sharply, and command him after a haughty 
and imperious manner ; and if he finds this will touch him 
to the quick, let him abstain from speaking in that manner, 
because his neighbour is a man like himself, and may 
have the same feelings as he has. 

Humility, also, is a very proper means to make us never 
speak but as we ought ; for if we be humble, and account 
ourselves the least of all, we shall need no other safe- 
guard than this. This alone is sufficient to teach us how 
to behave so that we shall never speak a hasty word, at 
which anyone may be offended, but always speak to every- 
one with respect and esteem. It is clear that no one would 
say to his Superior : ' Your Reverence does not understand 
what I say,' because he is speaking as an inferior to one 
whom he respects. If then anyone says these or the like 
words to his brother; it is because he does not take himself 
for his inferior, and so speaks to him without respect. Let 
us therefore be humble, and, following the counsel of the 

cp. X 



Apostle (Phil. ii. 3), reckon ourselves the least of all ; and 
we shall soon learn the words that we ought to utter and. 
the manner in which we ought to utter them. But apart 
from these general rules and remedies, we will go on to 
mention in particular some sorts of words that are con- 
trary to charity, that we may avoid them. 


That we ought to be much on our guard against biting 
words that may offend our brother, or give him any 

There are little remarks that bite and wound another,, 
covertly reflecting on his social condition, or intelligence 
not so keen as it might be, or any other defect, 
natural or moral. Such remarks are very much 
against charity; and the wittier and smarter they are, 
the worse they are, and the more harm they do, for they 
strike the hearers more, and stay longer in their memories. 
And the worst of it is that he who speaks them is some- 
times very much pleased with himsel f, thinking that he 
has said a clever thingnm?^howri disceTnment • whereas - 
in reality he very much deceives himself, and instead of 
showing discernment* he has only shown a poor under* 
standing and a worse will ; since he employs the under- 
standing, which God gave him for Jiis service, in making; 
pointed remarks that wound and scandalise his brethren; 
and disturb peace, and charity. 

Albertus Magnus says that as .when one has bad breath 
it is a sign of something wrong in liver or stomach, so, 
when one speaks evil words, it is a sign of some illness at 
heart. And what would the glorious St. Bernard say of 
the Religious who gave vent to biting witticisms? If any 
display of wit on the part of a Religious he called a blas- 
phemy and a sacrilege, what name would he give witty 
remarks at the expense of our brethren ? All these things 
are very alien to Religious Life; and accordingly all that 
touches thereon should be very far from the mouth of a 




Religious, such as the use of nicknames, and poking fun^uLig. 
at others, and mocking them/ and the making or repeating, ry^, 
of facetious couplets on /the fault or absentminded-V^ / • 
ness of another, and the likfe things. Neither in jest nor"' 1 ^^. 
in earnest can they reasonably be tolerated, of which let H, ml 1 . 
each one judge by himself. \jHow would you take it that " ' 
anyone should give you a nickname, and that all the world 
should laugh seeing how well the name fitted? Since, 
therefore, you would not like it done to yourself, do you 
not do it to another, for that is the rule of charity. Should 
you be pleased, supposing you had made a slip of the 
tongue, that people should at once make a point not to 
let it fall to the ground, as they say, but make a story of 
it? Certainly you would not. How then do you choose for 
another what you would not choose for yourself, — nay 
what you would resent and angrily complain of, if it were 
Vdone to you? 

Even the very mention of mocking and scoffing and 
calling nicknames is offensive and ill-sounding in the 
mouth of a Religious : how much more the doing of such 
things ! We should so much abhor them as not even to 
take their very names in our mouth, as St. Paul says of 
the vice of impurity : As for fornication and all manner of 
uncleanness, let it not be so much as named among you, 
as becometh saints (Eph. v. 3). And so it should be as 
regards this vice, and St. Paul goes on accordingly joining 
it with the other : Nor foul or foolish talking, nor jokes 
that are unbecoming. The very mention of such things 
is not in accordance with the holiness that we profess. St. 
Bernard says well : " If for idle words we have to give 
an account to God at the day of judgment, what shall it 
be of words that are more than idle?" What of words 
that wound the feelings of my brother? What of words 
that do harm? 


That we ought to beware of wrangling, contradicting 
and reprehending 

We must also avoid any wrangling with another-, or 
contradicting him, it being a thing very contrary to union 
and fraternal charity ; of which St. Paul gives us warning, 
when, writing to Timothy, he says : Do not contend in 
words, for it serves for nothing else but the dis edification 
of the hearers. And a little after, he adds : A servant of 
God must not be contentious, but gentle and peaceful in 
his behaviour to all men (2 Tim. ii. 14, 24). The Saints 
much recommend this to us, and from them our Father 
has borrowed it and inserted it in his Rules. St. Doro- 
theus says that he had rather things should be left undone 
than see any disputes or contests arise amongst brethren 
in doing them, and adds he would repeat this a thousand 
times. St. Bonaventure also declares that there is nothing 
more unworthy or misbecoming God's servants than to 
insist On getting their own way, and wrangle with one 
another as market-women are wont to do. And St* John- 
Climacus goes on to say that obstinacy in maintaining 
one's own opinion, though it be true, is certainly insti- 
gated by the devil ; and the reason is because that which 
usually moves men thereto is the excessive desire they 
have of human honour. To that end, they aim at getting 
their Own way, appearing wise and intelligent, and coming 
out conquerors, or at least, not to seem inferior to others ; 
and thus it is always the devil of pride who is the occasion 
of this obstinacy. 

Now in this, two sorts of faults may be committed. 
The first and greatest is his who first contradicted the 
other, because it is his obstinacy that began the dispute 
and kindled the fire, and so his fault is greater. And 
though, for the most part, the subject they dispute about 
is in reality of so small consequence that it is no matter 
whether the thing in debate be the one way or the Other, yet 
the loss of peace and charity, which ordinarily are greatly 
impaired by these disputes, is' of much consequence. Your 




friend says this in good faith, and understands the matter 
so : let him alone in his good faith, there is nothing at 
stake. Dispute not about what does not concern thee, says 
the Wise Man (Ecclus. xi. 9). Even though the thing in 
hand be of consequence, and you imagine that your brother 
may indeed receive some prejudice by adhering to his 
opinion ; yet it is a good plan, they say, to bear with him 
for the present instead of contradicting him, but take him 
apart and tell him the truth afterwards ; that he may not 
remain in error. Hereby the end is gained, and unpleasant 
consequences avoided. 

The other fault to observe here is, when it happens that 
someone contradicts you, you should not insist upon vour 
point, nor seek to push your opinion and get the better of 
his ; but as soon as you have laid down once or twice what 
you take to be the truth, if others do not believe you, let 
them think what they please. This is done by lapsing 
into silence, as though you knew no more, — not however 
with the affected air which some take up, as though they 
did not yield, but desired their opinion to stand, and the 
blame to rest with the other party. He that avoideih con- 
tention, gaineth honour, says the Wise Man (Prov. xx. 3). 
And with reason does he say so. It is the property of 
noble hearts to bate one's right in season, and let oneself 
be beaten in such like contentions and wrangles. He who 
acts thus, does an act of charity to his neighbour, by 
avoiding the bitternesses and irritations that usually follow 
upon these disputes. He does an act of humility within 
himself, vanquishing the desire of coming out with the 
honours of victory. Likewise an act. of love of God, 
cutting off the occasion of many sins that are almost 
inseparable from a war of words, as the Wise Man says : 
Abstain from contention, and thou wilt diminish sins 
(Ecclus. xxviii. 10). On the other hand, he who maintains 
his view obstinately, besides the disedification that he 
gives, is the cause of the loss of peace and charity, with 
many unpleasantnesses and rancours that follow there- 
from. And instead of gaining honour and esteem, as he 
thought to do, he loses it, because they take him for a 
' swollen head,' a man who likes coming out ' top dbg,' 
and will never bate an inch to anybody. 



It is said of St. Thomas Aquinas that in scholastic dis- 
putations he never peremptorily contradicted anyone^ but 
said what he thought with incredible mildness and tem- 
perance of language, throwing no scorn on anyone, but 
rather paying honour to all, as one whose object was not 
to come victorious out of a dispute, but to get the truth 
recognised. The instance is also well known of those two 
old monks, who dwelt together in one cell, and never had 
contention or wrangle between them, how they wished to 
make trial to see if they could get up a dispute about a 
brick as to whose it was, and they did not succeed. That 
is how we should succeed in our disputations. , 

You should also beware of undertaking to reprehend 
and correct your brother, though you fancy you could do 
it with all charity and in the handsomest manner. That 
is the office of the Superior. Now men take it with 
more, or less of good grace to have one Superior or two to 
admonish and rebuke them ; but they do not take it at all 
well for one who is not their Superior to usurp that office. 
Men commonly have no mind to be corrected and reproved 
by their equals. We have also a rule, forbidding anyone 
to command Or rebuke another without authority from the 
Superior to do so. As one cannot give an order without 
authority from the Superior, so neither can one give, cor- 
rection. This is not a business to entrust to all. Even 
the Superior himself, when he has to correct another and 
admonish him of his fault, must first look well about him, 
and wait for his opportunity, and measure his words, what 
he has to say and how he is to say it, in order that , the 
correction and admonition may be well taken, and profit 
the delinquent ; and all this circumspection is necessary. 
And here is a man who will take upon himself without 
further ado to tell his brother of his fault on the spot, and 
often in the act itself, under the colour of zeal. This is not 
the zeal of charity, but often a thing very contrary to 
charity, and more likely to do harm than good. Nay, even 
though thfere be much justification for what you do, the 
other is readily. tempted to say within himself, — -and it is a 
mercy if he does not say it but loud, — ' who has made you 
Superior, and why do you meddle in the office of another? 
Who hath made thee prince and judge over us? (Exod. ii. 


14).' If you tell the other that what he is doing is against 
the rule, he may tell you that your reprehending of him is 
also against the rule. 

It is related of Socrates that one day when he was at 
dinner with some friends in the house of a leading citizen 
who had invited them, he smartly took to task one of the 
company, for some fault that he saw him commit at table. 
Whereupon Plato, who was also present, said : " Would 
it not have been better to have left this till afterwards, 
and reprehended him in private?" Socrates replied: 
' ' And would it not also have been better for you to have 
told me this afterwards in private?" He cleverly cast 
back his reprehension in his face, observing that he was 
doing the very thing that he found fault with in another. 
That is what these reprehensions serve for. And not only 
is this no zeal of charity, but often it is bad humour on 
the part of him who gives the rebuke : it is his impatience 
and lack of self-control, which makes him so offended at 
the fault of his brother, and sometimes with what was no 
fault at all. He cannot contain himself till he has 
come out with it, and therein he thinks to have found 
relief and satisfaction. He cannot, or he will not, 
mortify himself, and he wants to mortify his neigh- 
bour. The spirit of mortification and rigour is very 
good for each one to maintain with himself, but with his 
brother he should always maintain a spirit of loVe and 
gentleness. This is what the Saints teach by word and 
example, and it helps much to union and fraternal charity. 
Hence it follows that if it is not good to rebuke and 
correct your brother even when you think you are doing 
it excellently well and with charity and kindness, much 
less will it be good if you point out to him his fault not so 
excellently well, nor with such excellent reserve. Thus 
we should be much on our guard against the practice, 
and generally against all words that may mortify our 

Cassian relates that one day Abbot Moses in dispute 
with Abbot Macarius, happened to say a word to mortify 
him and somewhat discompose him, and at once God chas- 
tised him, permitting a devil to enter into him, and such 
a foul and filthy devil too as to drive him to put into his 

ch. xn 



own mouth ordure and dirt, until by the prayer of Maca- 
rius he was delivered therefrom. This shows how much 
God abhors this fault, since He so chastised it in one who 
was such a great servant of His and a man of such ap- 
proved sanctity as we know the Abbot Moses to have been. 
A chastisement something like this we read of in the 
Chronicles of the Order of St. Francis. An aged friar in 
presence of a nobleman of Assisi addressed another friar 
in some rough ancl harsh words showing some anger. But 
in the act of saying them he entered into himself, and 
seeing his brother troubled by the words, and the secular 
disedified, he was kindled to take vengeance upon himself. 
So taking some dung, and putting it into his mouth, and 
chewing it, he said : " Let the tongue chew dung that has 
poured out against his brother poison of passion. " Arid 
it is said then that that nobleman was greatly edified and 
almost out of himself, seing with what zeal and fervour 
the Religious atoned for his fault. In consequence he was 
more devoted than ever to the friars, offering himself and 
all his goods to serve the Order. 


Of the good grace and kind words with which an office 
of charity should be exercised 

The blessed St. Basil, in a sermon exhorting to mon- 
astic life, gives an admonition and instruction very good 
for those who are occupied in outward offices of charity, 
how they should behave in exercising them. When you 
have, he says, to do these offices, you must not be content 
with the mere bodily exertion, but you must take care to 
do what you do with a good grace, and show kindness 
and gentleness in your words, that the others may under- 
stand that you do this out of charity, and so your service 
may be pleasing to them. And the same says Ecclesias- 
ticus : Son, in thy good deeds give no ground of complaint, 
nor in thy gifts cause sadness by evil words. Shall not a 
fall of dew temper heat? So too is the word better than 
the gift. Seest thou not that a kind word is worth more 


than the thing given? (Ecclus. xviii. 15-6). This is the salt 
which St. Paul says must give a relish to all that you do. 
The gracious air with which you serve, and the kind terms 
in which you answer, are worth more than all that you do. 
And contrariwise, know that however much you labour and 
fatigue yourself, if you do not do it with a gracious mien, 
using kind words and answers, it will not be valued or go 
for anything, but will seem all lost. Let your words and 
answers, say the Apostle, always be seasoned with the 
salt of graciousness and gentleness (Col. iv. 6), with such 
phrases as ' Delighted,' ' Most willingly.' Even if you 
are busy and have a great deal to do, and cannot do what 
you are asked, do not on that account return your brother 
a dry and disagreeable answer ; even then you must see 
that your answer be so good that the other may go away 
as contented and happy in your kindness as if you 
had done the thing.. Say such things as this : ' Cer- 
tainly, I should be much pleased to do it, if I could, but 
just now I can't. Will it do afterwards?' And if the 
obstacle is that you have not leave, say : ' I will go and 
ask leave for it.' Make up in kind words for what you 
cannot do in deed : thus your good will is understood. 
This is also what Solomon says : A gracious tongue 
aboundeth in a good man (Ecclus. vi. 5). Words spoken 
with graciousness and breathing tenderness and love, 
ought always to abound in a good and virtuous man, that 
being a great means to the preservation of charity and 
mutual union. 

St. Bonaventure says that we ought to be ashamed to 
utter a harsh and disagreeable word, that could possibly 
offend or displease our neighbour, even though it be 
spoken off-hand and on the spur of the moment, and 
though the word in itself be very slight. And if at any 
time 1 it shall happen that we are off our guard in this par- 
ticular, we should be careful to confound and humble 
ourselves, and offer satisfaction to our brother by begging 
his pardon. 

It is related of St. Dositheus that when he was in- 
firmarian he took particular care not to run foul of any- 
one, but to speak to all very peacefully and charitably. 
Still it did happen sometimes that, having to deal with 

ch. xii 



so many persons,— now with the cook, as to whether he 
should put that pot there ; at other times with the 
dispenser, because he did not give him the better portion 
for the sick, or because he did not give it him at once; at 
other times with the refectorian, because he took away 
some things from the refectory, — he raised his voice, and 
spoke some rough and offensive word ; and when this 
happened, he was so ashamed of himself that he went 
to his cell, and prostrate on the ground had his fill of 
weeping, until St. Dorotheus his master went there, who 
understood the situation. " What's this, Dositheus? 
what have you been doing?" He at once told his fault 
with many tears. " Father, I have spoken disrespectfully 
to my brother." St. Dorotheus scolded him well. " Is 
this humility? and still you live?" After scolding him, 
he said : " Rise now, God has forgiven you, let us start 
afresh. ' ' And the story goes that he got up as cheerfully 
as if he had heard his pardon from the mouth of God, 
and made a new resolution never to Speak to anyone dis- 
agreeably and harshly. 

For the common profit of those who do services of 
charity as also of those who receive them, St. Basil gives 
two short and solid pieces of advice. How, he asks, shall 
we render well this service of charity to our brothers? 
And he answers : If we reckon that in serving our brother 
we are serving Christ, who said : Verily I say to you, that 
what ye have done to the least of my brethren, ye have 
done it to me (Matt. xxv. 40). Do things as one serving 
God and not men, and in that way you will do them well, 
in good style and with a good grace. He goes on to ask : 
And how am I to receive the service that my brother does 
me ? He answers : As when the servant is served by his 
master velut servus ah hero ; and as St. Peter behaved 
when the Lord offered to wash his feet ; Lord dost thou 
wash my feet? (John xiii. 6). Thus there is preserved on the 
one hand humility in both parties concerned, inasmuch as 
the one will not disdain nor be weary of the service he 
renders to his brother, regarding him as a son of God and 
brother of Christ, and reckoning that in serving him, he 
serves Christ Himself ; and the other will not flatter himself 
upon seeing all people at his servicej- but rather will be 



confounded and humble himself more at that, considering 
that it is not done for him but for God. And on the other 
hand mutual charity will be preserved and much aug- 
mented for the same reason. 


Of what we are to do when we have had any passage 
of arms or disagreement with our brother 

But since after all we are men, and not all of us always 
so much upon the alert but that one may be taken some 
day by surprise to the extent of saying a harsh or dis- 
agreeable word, or giving some occasion of offence to 
his brothers, it will be well to see how we are to behave 
after that. When that happens, we are not to answer 
in the same harsh and disagreeable tone, but should 
have in us virtue and humility enough to take the thing 
well and know how to dissemble it. The fire of our 
charity should not burn so low as that a few drops of 
water will extinguish it. For this reason it is, says St. 
Basil, that St. Paul calls it fraternal charity, to signify 
that it must not be a light and accidental love, but well- 
marked, and strong. Let fraternal charity endure ever be- 
tween you (Heb. xiii. i), loving one another as brethren 
(Rom. xii. 10). It were greatly to be desired that rone 
should ever give occasion to his brother, either in deed or 
word, for the least displeasure in the world : but it is also 
to be desired that none should be so brittle as glass, such a 
tender babe in virtue, as for a mere nothing to be put out 
and talk loud and break the peace. It were better that none 
should find fault with anyone, nor meddle in the office of 
another ; but when it does happen that someone breaks the 
law in this, it is not reasonable and proper that the other 
party should at once throw this in his face, asking if he has 
got leave, or saying that there is a rule that none should 
meddle in the office of another; that only serves to make 
something of what was nothing, if you had only kept quiet 
and taken no notice. When one hard body strikes another 
hard body, it sounds and makes a noise : but if the hard 

ch. xiii 



body strikes a soft one, it is neither heard nor felt. We see 
that a hard ball discharged from a culverin shatters a 
tower of very good masonry with a great crash, but 
striking, on sacks of wool its force is deadened by that soft 
material. So Solomon says on this subject : A soft answer 
turneth away wrath, but hard words awaken fury (Prov. 
xy. 1), for that is throwing fuel on the fire, contrary to 
what the Wise Man advises : Throw not fuel on the fire 
of a man in a violent passion (Ecclus. viii. 4). You should 
not feed his fire with your replies, but have so much soft- 
ness and virtue in your composition, that though at times 
they say a hard and rough word to you, it makes no noise, 
it is not felt, it nowhere appears, but is deadened and 
drowned where it fell. 

St. Dorotheus teaches us a very humble way of answer- 
ing on such occasions. He says that when others speak 
roughly and reprehend us, and even accuse us of haying 
done what we have not done, we should still answer with 
humility, asking pardon as if we had really given occa- 
sion for the rebuke, though we have given none, and say : 
' Pardon me, brother, and pray to God for me.' He got 
this from one of those ancient Fathers, who advised him 
so. With this store of supplies on board, oil the one side 
being very careful not to offend or give any occasion of 
displeasure to our brothers, and on the other being wide 
awake for occasions of suffering and taking in good part 
any annoyance that may be offered us, we shall live in 
great peace and union. 

But when some day you fail in this, and it happens that 
you have had a passage of arms with your brother, be- 
cause he has broken out, and you have not had virtue 
and humility enough to bear it and take no notice, but 
one hard body has hit another, and there has been a noisy 
collision, so that you remain offended and full of resent- 
ment against your brother, and he also against you for 
the reply and retort with which you met him, — then says 
St, Bonaventure this feeling of resentment must not be 
suffered to endure either on the one side or on the other; 
but you must seek to make it up and be reconciled to your 
brother before dinner ; or at least before going to bed. 
Let not the sun go down upon your anger (Eph; iv. 26), 



put an end to it before nightfall. Now the way to satis- 
faction and reconciliation, he says, must be by the one 
asking pardon of the other. And our Father gives us the 
same recommendation in his Constitutions. He says : 
' ' It must not be allowed, nor must there be place given for 
any irritation or disagreement to exist amongst Ours ; but 
if anything of the sort comes about through our weakness 
and the instigation of the enemy, who is ever seeking to fan 
and kindle the fire of discord amongst brethren,, means 
must be taken that they return at once by due satisfaction 
to their former brotherhood and kindliness." And among 
other spiritual admonitions that are found in the manu- 
scripts of our Father, there is one to this effect, that when 
anything of this sort occurs, the parties should at once 
ask pardon of one another, and this is the due satisfaction 
that the Constitutions require. With this humility the 
breach of charity will be repaired, as St. Bernard well 
observes : Sola humilitas est laesae caritatis reparatio. 
We should all be very ready to ask pardon and to give 
it, according to the word of the Apostle : Bearing with 
one another, and pardoning one another, if any one hath 
matter of complaint against another (Col. iii. 13). Nay 
each one should try to get the start in this transaction, 
and not wait for or allow the other to take away his 
crown therein : that none may take thy crown (Apoc. 
iii. 11) : for whoever is the first to make advances by hum- 
bling himself and going first to beg pardon, that one gains 
a great crown. Thus the senior in Religion, and he who 
has or ought to have a better hold on virtue and mortifica- 
tion, should aim at being the first in this transac- 
tion, and abate his right, and not stand on points, as to 
whether he is the injured party or most in the right. 
When the shepherds of Abraham and Lot his nephew 
quarrelled about the feeding-ground of their flocks, at 
once Abraham yielded his right and gave Lot the choice. 
I pray thee, let there be no disagreement between me and 
thee, and between my shepherds and thine, since we are 
brothers. Here thou hast all the land in sight: go apart 
from me, I pray thee. If thou tdkest the left, I will take 
the right. If thou choose'st the right, I will go to the left 
(Gen. xiii. 8). 

CH. xiv 



In the Chronicles of the Cistercian Order there is a 
story of a monk, who every time he communicated had 
this favour done him by the Lord, that it seemed as though 
he were receiving a honeycomb, and this delightful sweet- 
ness lasted three days. It happened one day that he re- 
buked another and went a little beyond bounds in doing 
so, and then he went to Communion without being recon- 
ciled to his brother. That day, the story says, he felt in 
his mouth a bitterness greater than that of gall, because 
he had not complied with what Christ our Redeemer 
commands in His Gospel : If thou art offering thine offer- 
ing at the altar, and there thou rememberest that thy 
brother, hath some complaint against thee, leave thine 
offering at the foot of the altar, and go first to be recon- 
ciled to thy brother; and, that done, thou canst return and 
offer thy gift (Matt. v. 23-4). Hereby we see what store 
the Lord sets by one being reconciled with one's brother 
at once, since, though he be at the foot of the altar, He 
requires him to go back and be reconciled to him before 
making his offering to God. 


Of three directions to be observed when another has 
given us some occasion of annoyance 

From what has been said we may gather three direc- 
tions to be observed when our brother has offended us, 
or given us some occasion of annoyance. The first is that 
we must be very far from desiring any revenge. We are 
all brethren and members of the same body, and no mem- 
ber wounded by another member takes vengeance on it, 
nor was ever boy so senseless as, because he had bitten his 
tongue, to pull out in his vexation the teeth that did the 
mischief: they are of the same household, now that one 
harm has been done, let not there be done two. Thus we 
should say when a brother offends us : 1 he is of my 
body, let us pardon him, let us not do or wish him 
any evil ; now that one harm is done, let there not 



be two in this body of Religion.' Rendering no man evil 
for evil (Rom. xii. 17). I am not speaking of revenge in 
a grave matter, because here in Religion we are very far, 
and all should be very far, from that, but I speak of lighter 
things such as one thinks he may desire and do without 
sin. One will say : ' I do not wish any harm to befall 
my brother, but certainly I should like to say to him two 
words that he would feel and come to see the mischief he 
has done in this matter. ' Another is glad at the rebuke 
and penance given to him with whom he has some matter 
of animosity. Another feels a strange satisfaction and 
complacency in the man's not succeeding well in some 
undertaking, and coming out of it disappointed and 
humbled. This is revenge, this is an evil thing, this is 
not having forgiven with all your heart. In this state of 
mind one may well have some scruple over the words of 
the Paternoster : Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive 
them that trespass agairist us. In some sort this would 
mean more amongst us in Religion than in those of the 
world desiring a grave vengeance on their enemies. Say, 
not: As he hath done unto me, so will I do unto him (Prov. 
xxiv. 29). Desire not for your brother a return of what 
he has done to you : since that would be to desire ven- 

Secondly, we must not only be far from desiring any 
sort of vengeance upon him who has offended us, but we 
must also beware of another thing which people in the 
world think lawful. Those in the world are wont to say : 
' I wish no evil to Jones, but I shall never be able to 
stomach him any more.' These people keep up in their 
heart a dislike and aversion for him who has injured them, 
and they cannot swallow any more from that quarter, as 
they say. Among these worldly people this is taken to 
be wicked, and we sometimes doubt whether they have 
fulfilled in rigour the obligation of the precept, since this 
sometimes leads to their refusing to speak to the person, 
and giving some scandal thereby. But how much greater 
a fault would it be if here amongst us there were anything 
of the sort, and there remained in your heart any bitter- 
ness or dislike against your brother, and you did not look 
upon him as yesterday and the day before (Gen. xxxi. 2) ! 




This is a thing very alien to Religious Life. Let all bitter- 
ness of heart, all anger and indignation be removed from 
you (Eph. iv. 31). We ought to be very bountiful to one 
another, very merciful, and ready to forget injuries, and 
that altogether from the heart. Do you know how much 
' from the heart ' means? St. Paul tells you, ' as God 
pardons us ' : As the Lord hath condoned to you, so do 
ye also (Col. iii. 13). See how much from the heart God 
pardons us : when we repent and beg pardon of our sins, 
God keeps us no ill-will nor grudge against us, nor shows 
us a sour face, but makes us friends as before. He 
cherishes and loves us as if we had never offended Him, 
and throws not our past sins in our teeth, nor remembers 
them anymore, I will not remember anymore their sins and 
iniquities (Ezech. xviii. 22). He will cast into the depths 
of the sea all our sins (Micah vii. 19). In this way we 
ought to forgive, and in this way to forget injuries. There 
should remain in us no aversion or grudge against our 
brother, but it should be as though he had never offended 
us and nothing had passed between us. If you wish God 
to forgive you in this way, do you also forgive your 
brother : otherwise, dread what Christ our Redeemer says 
in the Gospel : So shall my heavenly Father do to you as 
ye have done to your brother, unless you forgive everyone 
his brother from his heart (Matt, xviii. 35). Forgive and 
ye shall be forgiven: with the same measure wherewith ye 
have measured out to others, so shall it be measured unto 
you (Luke vi. 37-8). 

The third thing, which better explains what has gone 
before, St. Basil says is, that as we should not keep up 
any particular affection for anybody, since these affections 
give rise to many bad consequences, as we shall say here- 
after, so neither should we keep up an aversion for anyone, 
since these aversions also give rise to many bad con- 
sequences. What worse consequence could there be 
than this, if (which God forbid) such language were heard 
amongst us : ' Raphael does not get on well with Gabriel ; 
since so and so happened, they have not been on the 
same footing as before ; they do not hit it with one 
another, they are at loggerheads.' Encounters of this 
sort are enough to bring Religious Life to the ground. If 




Christ our Redeemer willed us to be known for His dis- 
ciples by our loving one another (John xiii. 35), he who 
shall be none of that sort, but quite the contrary, will be 
no disciple of Christ, no good Religious, 

Now for a remedy to all this. As when you feel a par- 
ticular affection for anyone, you should diligently endeav- 
our to cast it off, that it may not take root in your heart 
nor become dominant there; and the masters of spiritual 
life particularly advise us that it is necessary then to make 
great account of not letting this particular affection and 
inclination of the will come to light, nor show itself in 
deeds, nor let it be possibly understood or seen by anyone, 
because such a thing is apt to give great scandal and 
offence; so also when you feel an aversion and dislike for 
anyone, you must be. careful at once with all diligence to 
throw it off, that it may take no hold upon your heart nor 
any root there. And you must be particularly careful not 
to let it be in any manner visible in your actions that 
you have this aversion or temptation, because that might 
give great offence and lead to many evil consequences. 

And not only must you be careful that others may not 
come to see it, but also that the party concerned may not 
be able to see it either. This is readily understood by the 
very example that we have before us. There are some 
people who endeavour that others should not come to see 
the particular affection they bear to some individual, wish- 
ing to avoid the censure and scandal that that might oc- 
casion ; but as for the person to whom they bear that affec- 
tion, they give him to understand it in many things ; 
sometimes by declaring it openly, at other times covertly, 
which is a great and very pernicious evil. So there are 
those who while they are careful that others shall not 
come to see how ill-disposed they are towards their 
brother, for the sake of avoiding the censure and scandal 
that might arise therefrom, nevertheless show it to him in 
outward appearance and behaviour, cutting him, and not 
treating him as before, looking glum and severe on every 
occasion of meeting him, and purposely letting him see 
that they resent what he has done. This also is very 
wicked, since it is a kind of vengeance taken upon one's 
brother. Of all these things we should very much beware. 

CH. xiv 



For this as for any other temptation the Saints advise 
us, by reason of the danger, to walk with great precaution 
and circumspection, that the temptation may not run away 
with us, and make us do something in accordance with 
it. Therefore when you feel any aversion, or dislike, or ran- 
cour against another, you must be very much on your guard 
not to let this aversion or dislike carry you oif, and cause 
you to say something or do something in evidence of it, 
and so give occasion of offence to your brother. Rather 
you should then make an effort to do him good turns, 
praying to God for him, and speaking well of him, and 
aiding him upon occasion, according to the counsel of 
the Gospel (Matt. v. 44), and what St. Paul says : Be not 
overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good; for, doing 
this, thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head (Rom. 
xii. 20, 21). 

Thomas a Kempis tells of a priest and servant of God, 
a companion of his in the same monastery, that having to 
go on business to another convent he met on the way a 
layman, with whom he engaged in familiar conversation. 
They came to speak of the things of God, and in 
the course of this conversation the layman went 
on to tell him that he wished to tell him a cer- 
tain thing that had happened to him at another time, 
which was that for a long time when he heard Mass he 
could never see the Blessed Sacrament in the hands of 
the priest. Thinking that this was because he was too 
far off, and his sight too weak to be able to see it, he went 
up to the altar where the priest was celebrating, and for 
all that he could see no more in one place than in the other, 
and this lasted for more than a year. In his perplexity 
and confusion, not knowing the cause of it, he bethought 
himself and determined to lay open the matter in confes- 
sion to a good priest. This priest, after discreet examina- 
tion, found that this man was at enmity with a neighbour 
for a certain injury that he had received, which he had 
no mind on any account to forgive. The good confessor, 
considering his malice arid hardness of heart, partly 
scolded him, partly admonished him, giving him to under- 
stand the great danger in which he lay ; and that if he did 
not from his heart pardon the injuries done him, it was in 


vain for him to ask pardon for his own sins, and that this 
was the reason why he could not see the Blessed Sacra- 
ment. Hearing this, he was struck with compunction of 
heart, and obeying the counsel of his good confessor he 
pardoned his enemy. When the confession was over, and 
he had received penance and absolution, he entered the 
church, heard Mass, and without difficulty saw the Blessed 
Sacrament. In thanksgiving he was never wearied with 
blessing the Lord for this benefit, and for the others that 
He marvellously works among His creatures. 


Of rash judgments, explaining in what their malice 
and gravity consists 

And thou, says St. Paul, how darest thou judge thy 
brother, and despise him and undervalue him in thy heart? 
(Rom. xiv. 10). Among other temptation s wherewith the 
devil, the enemy of our good, is wont to make war upon 
us. one of the chief is b y intruding upon us jud gments an d 
suspicions against our brethren, to the end that we may 
give up the esteem and good opinion that we have of them, 
and along with it our love and charity for them, or at 
least that that charity may become lukewarm and cool 
down. For the same reason we should do our very best - u. 
to resist this temptation, and reckon it a yer^j^aye oncf^Lfe 
because it strikes a chord coming so near the heart asv^ 
charity. So St.Augjjsjirie_ advises us: "If you wish to r^ifi 
maintain yours^fflnlove and charity with your brethren, m 
before all things it is necessary to be greatly on yoxvcnY 
guard against judgments and suspicions, which are the 
poison of charity." St. J3onayenture calls it, "a pesti-^i 
lence hidden and secret, but most deadly, which drives 
lj away God and destroys charity among brethren." The 
F malice and gravity of this vice consists in its defaming 

your neighbour in your own thoughts, depreciating and 
making less of him, giving him an unjustly low place in 
your heart, and that on indications slight and insufficient. 




Herein you aggrieve and wrong your brother; and the 
fault will be the greater, the more serious the matter on 
which you pronounce judgment, and the more frivolous the 
evidence. The gravity of this fault will be understood from 
another like it : if you were to ruin another in the good 
estimation of your brother, defaming him, and depriving 
him of the esteem and good opinion which your brother 
had of him, that would be clearly a grave sin. But this 
same offence and injury you do him in abandoning without 
cause and without sufficient evidence the esteem and good 
opinion that you had of him, because your brother sets the 
same value in having a good name with you as with 
another man. Hereby one may well see the injury and 
offence hereby done to your neighbour. Would not you 
take it ill that another should conceive such a mean 
opinion of you, without your having given any sufficient 
cause for it ? Measure it by yourself, which is the measure 
of charity with our neighbour, and of justice also, 
"jit It is to be observed here that it is one thing to have a 
temptation to form rash judgments, and another thing to 
be overcome by that temptation. So we are wont to say 
in other temptations, that it is one thing to have tempta- 
tions to impurity, and another thing to be overcome and 
consent to them ; and we say that the evil is not in the first, 
but in the second of these two things. In this case, like- 
wise, it is not wicked to be troubled with thoughts of 
rash judgment, — -though it would be better if we were so 
full of love and charity for our brethren, and had such a 
high opinion of them, and such a deep knowledge of our 
own faults, that it never entered into our heads to look at 
or consider the faults of other people. But after all, as 
St. Bernard says, " the fault is not in the feeling, but in 
the consent" and in being overcome by the temptation. 
Non nocet sensus, ubi non est consensus. A man is then 
overcome by the temptation to rash judgment, when he 
makes up his mind and consents thereto, and thereby loses 
the high opinion and good repute that he had of his 
brother, and thinks less of him. In such a case, when he 
goes to confession, he must not say that there occurred 
to him judgments against his brother, but that he con- 
sented to them and was overcome by that temptation. 



Theologians here warn us that we must be very careful 
not to specify to anyone else the judgment and suspicion 
that has occurred to us against our neighbour, lest the 
person we tell it to come also himself to have the same 
judgment and suspicion, or possibly be confirmed in the 
idea that had already occurred to him ; for our inclination 
is so evil that we are readier to believe evil than good of 
another. Even in confession, they observe that we must 
not name the person against whom the judgment has oc- 
curred, nor the person at whom offence is taken for such 
and such a thing that he has done, not thereby to engender 
in the mind of the confessor any evil suspicion or disesteem 
of him. So great is the caution and care which they 
require us to have concerning the honour and good repute 
of our neighbour. And are you ready on slight and ill- 
founded conclusions to surrender the esteem and reputa- 
tion which your neighbour had with you, a reputation to 
which he has a natural right with all men, so long as his 
deeds do not bear direct witness to the contrary? 

Besides the injury and offence hereby done to your 
neighbour, this vice contains in itself other malice and 
grave injury to God, by us urpation of the jur^^ction^nd 
judgmejuMyjhicjijrjrc^^ Against this 

"ou^^SlTvToTIrsays intheGros^TT/Mrfg^ not, and ye shall 
not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be con- 
demned (Luke vi. 37). St. Augustine says that He here 
forbids rash judgments, which consist in judging the in- 
tention of the heart, and other things uncertain and 
hidden, because God has reserved to Himself the cogni- 
sance of this case, and so forbids us to meddle therein. 
The Apostle St. Paul declares this more in particular, 
when writing to the Romans : Who art thou that darest 
judge another, man's servant? In view of his master it is 
that he keepeth his footing or falleth (Rom. xiv. 4). To 
judge is the act of a Superior: this man is not your subject: 
he has a Master, namely, our Lord, leave him to Him to 
judge, and take not on yourself the jurisdiction of God. 
Judge not before the time, until the Lord cometh, who will 
light up the hidden things of darkness and manifest the 
intentions of hearts; and then shall every man have his 
praise from God (1 Cor. iv. 5). This is the reason which 


the Apostle gives why we should not judge, because there 
are uncertain and hidden things which belong to the judg- 
ment of God, and so he who meddles in judging these 
things usurps the jurisdiction and judgment of God. In 
the Lives of the Fathers there is a story told of one of 
those monks, who upon sundry indications that he saw 
or heard spoken of judged ill of another monk, and im- 
mediately he heard a voice from heaven that said to him : 

" Men have taken away My judgment, and meddled in a 

jurisdiction not theirs." 

And if we say this, and the Saints say it, of things that 
wear some appearance of evil, what shall be said of those 
who put a bad construction even on things in themselves 
good, judging that they are done with an evil intention and 
for human motives ? This is most properly to usurp the 
jurisdiction and judgment of God, these people seeking to 
enter even into the hearts of men, and judge of intentions 
and hidden thoughts, a thing peculiarly proper to God. 
Ye have made yourselves judges, giving unjust sentences, 
says the Apostle St. James (ii. 4). And the Wise Man 
says that they seek to make themselves diviners, judging 
what they know not and cannot know. In the likeness of 
a diviner and conjecturer he judgeth of what he knoioeth 
not (Prov. xxiii. 7). 


Of the causes and roots whence rash judgments pro- 
ceed, and their remedies 

The first root whence rash judgments proceed, is that 
which is the root of all evils and sins, which is pride. 
But particularly so in this case, St,_Bojxaj£ejiture notes 
here a thing worthy of consideration. He says : " People ^, Q , 
wh o_take themselves to be spiritual men are usually more p 
tempted than others in this particular of j ud ging an d ' 
marking down others ; as if they were so to fulfil what the ^nt^*^*^ 
Apostle says in another sense : The spiritual man judgeth 
all things (1 Cor. ii. 15)." They fancy they see in them- 
selves gifts of God, and whereas they ought to be more 


humble, they grow vain of them, and take themselves for 
somebodies, and in comparison with themselves they make 
little of others, seeing- them less recollected and more oc- 
cupied and diverted with exterior things. Hence they 
turn reformers of other people's lives, forgetting their 

The Saints say that simplicity is the daughter of humi- 
lity, since he who is truly humble keeps his eyes open only 
upon his own faults, and closed upon those of his neigh- 
bour, and ever finds in himself so much to consider and 
deplore as never to raise his eyes or his thoughts to the 
study of other people's faults; and thus once a man is 
truly humble, he will be far removed from these judg- 
ments. To this end the Saints assign this remedy as very 
important, as well for this as for other failings, that we 
should .keep our eves open solely to see our own faults. 
ut sciatn quid desit mihi (Ps. 38), and closed against the 
sight of the faults of our neighbours . Thus we shall not 
be like the hypocrites whom Christ censures in the holy 
Gospel, who see the mote in the eyes of their neighbour, 
and not the beam that they have right across their own 
eyes (Matt. vii. 3). The keeping of our eyes ever on our 
own failings carrieswith it great and high benfifiis. It 
carrjas^numility and^elf-abasemenU,it*arrie^fear of God 
ancPrecollection of heart, it carries^peace ancrtranquillity. 
But to go prying into your neighbour's defects parries 
^with it great £j£jis_and ill consequences, such as prkje, 
^rash judgments^indignation against my brother ancPill 
opinion of him^ troubles of conscience^fits of indiscreet 
zeal, and other things that disturb the heart. Thus, if 
ever you do see some defect in your neighbour, the Saints 
bid you draw fruit from it. An excellent way of doing 
this is laid down for us by St^Bojiav^nj^ire^ who says : 
" When you see in your broffieTsoTnethlng that displeases 
you, before you judge him, turn your gaze within, and 
see if there be in you anything worthy of reprehension ; 
and if there be, turn your sentence against yourself, and 
condemn yourself in that in which you were minded to con- 
demn another, saying with the Prophet, It is I who have 
sinned, I who have done evil (2 Kings xxiv. 17). I am 
t the evil and perverse creature, who does not deserve to 

CH. xvi 



kiss the ground on which my brother treads, and do I 
dare to judge him? And what has that which I see 
in my brother to do with what I see in myself?" St.' 
B ernard teaches another good rule, which we may adopt 
~Tn* this" matter. " When you see anything in another 
that displeases you, turn your eyes at once upon yourself, 
and see if you have the same fault ; and if so, give it up. 
And when you see anything in your brother that pleases 

you, turn your eyes also upon yourself, and see if you 

have that good point ; and if you have it, take means to [ 
keep it; and if you have it not, take means to attain it."j 
In this way we shall profit by everything. 

M / St - Thomas assigns other reasons of these judgments. 

s They come sometimes of an evil heart, whereby a man 
"^judges of others from what he has done or would do 
himself, according to the saying of the Wise Man : The 
fool walking in the road, being himself void of sense, 
reckons all men to be fools (Eccles. x. 3) : which 
in plain English is what the proverb says : " The 
robber fancies all the world to be thieves." As 
when you look through a blue glass, all the world seems 
blue ; and if you look through a pink glass, all seems pink ; 
so to the evil and imperfect man everything seems evil, he 
sees all things in a bad light, because he looks through a 
glass of the same hue. Because he does things for these 
ends and on these motives, he thinks that everybody else 
does the same. To him well applies that saying of St. 
Paul : You condemn yourself in these judgments, because 
you do tha t very thing which you judpe (Rom, ii. 1). A 
good and virtuous man always takes things on the better 
side, even though there be some indications that make 
the thing doubtful : to take them on the worse side is not 
a good sign. St. Dorotheus says that as a man with a 
good constitution and a good stomach turns even un- 
wholesome food into good nourishment, and contrariwise, 
a man with a bad constitution and a bad stomach turns 
good food into peccant humour, so also herein ; a man who 
has and aims at virtue, turns everything to good, taking 
everything on the better side ; whereas he who does not 
aim at virtue turns all into peccant humour, taking things 
on the worse side. 



TR. iv 

The Saints go further and say that even when what 
one sees is clearly bad, though it is not sin to judge that 
for evil which certainly is so, yet then it is a mark 
of virtue and perfection to try to excuse one's neigh- 
bour as far as possible. " If you cannot excuse the deed, 
excuse the intention," says St. Bernard, " think that it 
was some piece of inadvertence or ignorance; think that 
it must have been absent-mindedness ; think that it was 
some sudden burst of impulse." Excusa intentionem, si 
opus non potes, puta ignorantiam, puta subreptionem, 
puta casum. If we loved our neighbour as we love our- 
selves, if we regarded him as a second self, since a friend 
is a second self, there would never be wanting to us modes 
and manners of excuse. Oh how a man excuses himself ! 
how he defends himself ! how he diminishes and lightens 
his faults ! So should we do to our neighbour, if we 
loved him as we love ourselves. And when the fault is 
so evident and culpable as to leave no room for excuse, 
then, says St. Bernard, think that the occasion and temp- 
tation was very grave and vehement, and say within your 
heart : ' What would have become of me, if that temp- 
tation had assailed me with as much force as it assailed 
him, and the devil, the tempter, had as much power to 
tempt me as he had to tempt him?' We read of our 
blessed Father Ignatius, that when a deed was so evidently 
bad as to leave no room for excuse, and there was no 
other way out of it, he suspended his judgment, and laid 
hold of a text of Scripture, and said, Judge not before the 
time (i Cor. iv. 5) ; and that saying of the Lord to Samuel, 
God alone it is that seeth hearts (1 Kings xvi. 7) ; and 
that of St. Paul, In view of his master it is that every man 
keepeth his footing or falleth (Rom. xiv. 4). 
f I/O 3 St. Thomas mentions another main root of this habit : 
}y^> he says that rash judgments often arise from some ajrer- 
sjon J _^r__enyy t or rivalry on the part of him who judges : 
this strongly inclines him to think ill of all the doings of 
the person judged, and view them in the worst light on 
1 very slight indications, fo r_everyone r eadily believes wha t S^ M f 

he desires. This is seen by the contrary: for when one has 
greaFtove" for another, he forthwith sees all his doings in fiHU/yi 
a good light, and is so far from putting a bad construction. 


on them or taking them in ill part that he rather excuses 
and makes light of them, even when he sees them not 
such as he would wish. Charity thinketh no evil (1 Cor. 
xiii. 5). One and the same fault, and one and the sam e 
evidence, how different they appear in one whom you love 
and one for whom you have an aversion ! Every da y 
we experi ence this, that one man's goin gs on shock you, 
while anot her perhaps goes further, and you are not 
offended nor take any Tri ced of it . Both the - one an3 the 
other fact is well stated by the Wise Man, Hatred raiseth 
up quarrels, but love on the contrary covereth all up and 
putteth faults out of sight (Prov. x, 12). ThusthejMss- 
\ a SL °£, judgment on _Qthers__ig for ^^aju^of_Jgying ^tbem. 
HenceaTsolOsT^ is no fault in our brother 

oftentimes offends us, his demeanour, his conversation, 
his way of going on, and sometimes even what in him is 
virtue. Hence it follows that as simplicity is a great 
help to the preservation of charity, so also charity is a 
great help to simplicity : those two virtues go hand in 
hand like good sisters. 

It will also help us much to consider attentively the 
cunning and malice of the devil, who seeks to rob us Of 
the esteem and consequently of the love that we should 
bear to our brethren, by little trifles that sometimes are 
not faults j or if they are, are so trivial that men cannot 
be fre# from faults of that sort, since in this life there is 
no man who does not commit faults and venial sins. The 
Apostle and Evangelist St. John says : If we say we have 
no sin, we deceive ourselves and speak not the truth 
(1 John i. 8). And the Wise Man says: Seven times 
shall the just man fall (Prov. xxiv. 16) : he means to say, 
he shall fall many times, and not cease to be just on that 
account. Now it is not fair that anyone should lose your 
good will for that for which he ceases not to be just, nor 
forfeits one point of the grace of God. True love of 
charity is not so strait pinned up, not such a house on 
sticks, as are the friendships of this world, which are dis- 
solved by any trumpery accident, even by failure to pay a 
salute to your friend. The love of charity is founded in 
God, who cannot fail. Let us then copy the tender ways 
of God, who ceases not to cherish and love us, full of 



faults and imperfections and venial sins as we are : not 
for that does He diminish one point of His love. God 
suffers in me so many faults and imperfections, and I 
cannot suffer one small fault in my brother without at 
once throwing it in his teeth and showing - annoyance, and 
remaining- embittered and in ill-humour against him. You 
show therein that your love is not pure love of charity for 
God's sake, for if it were, what does not make God angry 
'would not make you angry nor raise your displeasure. 
> What does not make God angry ought not in all reason 
[to make His servants and creatures angry. This man 
you are angry with is a child of God, His much cherished 
and well-beloved child : now if God loves and esteems 
him, it is reasonable that you also should love and esteem 
him. Dearly beloved, if God hath loved us so much, we 
ought also to love one another (i John iv. n). 

Add to this a doctrine of St. Gregory, and it is a com- 
* mon opinion of the Saints : they say that sometimes God 
XuV- rW our Lord denies His lesser gifts to those to whom He 
/jr. j£fo gives great gifts, and by a secret dispensation of His pro- 
Hf « vidence leaves them with sundry faults and imperfections, 

fcit aA**- This, to the end that, seeing how for all their desires and 
f L.j) efforts to rid themselves of an evil way and an unhappy 
*^ Jj ^f. propensity that they have about them they never succeed, 
^"iW^Kf-Ct-but with so many good purposes they still fail in this 
point, they may walk ever in humility and self-abase- 
ment, and understand that as they cannot compass these 
lesser things, still less can they achieve those greater 
things of themselves. Thus a person may in one way be 
very perfect, very virtuous, a saint; and yet on the other 
hand along with that have sundry faults and imperfections, 
which God has left to try him, and to keep him in humility 
in the midst of the gifts that he enjoys. Hen ce we should 
draw this conclusion, ap t to our purp os e, that we ought 
not to pass an unfavo urable judgment on any one for his 
ha^ng_^rnejof_these faults, nor estee m or prefer our - 
selves before hi m, becau se we think we have not s uch 
faults. Remember what St. Gregory says," that this man 
with this fault may be perfect, and you without it may be 
imperfect. In this manner you will preserve humility in 
yourself on the one hand, and on the other hand esteem 


and love of your brother, and will not judge him nor hold 
him in less regard on that account. 


In which the above is confirmed by sundry examples 

Q In the Lives of the Fathers it is told of the Abbot Isaac 
that he came one day from the solitude in which he lived 
to a company of monks, and judged ill of one of them, 
thinking him worthy of punishment, because he saw in 
him some signs of small virtue. Afterwards he returned 
to his cell, and found at the door an angel standing, who 
barred his entrance ; and when the holy man asked the 
reason, the angel answered that the Lord had sent him 
to ask for an answer, where he wished or commanded 
them to cast this monk whom he had judged and con- 
demned. Then the Abbot recognised his fault, and 
begged pardon of the Lord. The angel told him that the 
Lord forgave him that once, and bade him for the future 
greatly beware of playing the judge, or passing sentence 
on any one, before the Lord, the Judge of all, judged him. 
@ St. Gregory relates of Cassius, Bishop of Narnia, a 
great servant of God, that his nose was naturally very 
red and fiery. Totila, King- of the Goths, seeing: it, 
judged that it came of his being a great toper. But the 
Lord was careful to strike in at once for the honour of 
His servant, by permitting the devil to enter of a sudden 
into one of Totila's courtiers, his sword-bearer, and tor- 
ment him in the sight of the King, and of all the army. 
They took the possessed person to the Saint, and he pray- 
ing and making the sign of the Cross over him delivered 
him at once from the devil, whereat the King changed 
his judgment, and held him in great honour ever after. 

In the Lives of the Fathers it is related that there were 
two monks, very holy and brotherly together, on whom 
the Lord had bestowed this favour, that each saw in the 
other the grace of God that dwelt in him, by some visible 
sign, what it was the history does not say. One of them 
went out one Friday morning from his cell, and saw a 



monk eating ; and as soon as he saw him, without further 
examination of the necessity or cause he had for eating 
so early, said to him : " How comes it that you are eat- 
ing at this hour, to-day being Friday? ", — taking that to 
be a fault in the other. When he returned to his cell, 
the monk, his companion, was greatly afflicted, not see- 
ing in him the customary sign of the grace of God, and 
said to him : ' ' Brother, what is it that thou hast done since 
thou wentest out?" And he answered that he did not 
know he had done anything bad. His companion 
answered : " Perhaps thou hast spoken some idle word." 
At once he remembered what he had said, and the judg- 
ment he had passed on the other monk. He told him 
what had passed, and they both fasted a fortnight in 
penance for this fault. When that was over, he saw 
the sign as usual. 

(J) In the Chronicles of St. Francis there is related a mar- 
vellous vision that the Lord showed to Brother Leo, one 
of the companions of St. Francis. He saw a great num- 
ber of Friars Minor in procession, very shining and fair, 
among whom he saw one more glorious, from whose eyes 
flashed rays brighter than those of the sun : so bright and 
fair they were that he could not look him in the face. 
Holy Brother Leo asked who this friar was whose eyes 
shone so bright, and was answered that it was Brother 
Bernard de Quintaval, first companion of St. Francis, 
and that the light shone from his eyes so brilliantly 
because he always judged on the more favourable side 
whatever he saw in others, and took all others to be better 
than himself. When he saw the poor in their rags, he 
used to say : ' These people observe poverty better than 
you,' and judged them as if they had voluntarily promised 
and chosen that poverty. When he saw the rich and 
well-dressed, he used to say with much compunction : 
' Maybe these wear haircloth under their clothes, and 
secretly chastise their flesh, and outwardly dress in this 
manner to shun vainglory, and so it may be that they 
are better than you.' For this simplicity of his eyes the 
Lord gave him that particular glory in them. This is an 
example we should copy {§) St. Dorotheus says : " When 
you enter another's cell and see it all in disorder, say in 




your heart : O happy and blessed brother, who , art so 
absorbed in God as not to see these things ! And when 
you see it well-arranged and tidy, say : That is the, way 
he keeps his soul." 

©In the same Chronicles it is related how when St. 

Francis was going about Italy preaching, he found on 

the road a poor and very infirm man, on whom he took 

pity and compassion, and began to talk to his companion 

in words expressive of his compassion for the infirmity 

and poverty of this poor man ; and his companion said to 

him : ' ' Brother it is true that this person looks very poor, 

but maybe he is richer in desires than all that there are in 

the land." St. Francis scolded him at once very severely 

for this speech and rash judgment, and said to him : 

" Brother, if you wish to stay in my company^ you must^^ fyiA*«</j> 

do the penance I shall give you for this sin ^against your -imA<v^\ «*>■ 

neighbour." The brother offering himself with great /ti&W? 

humility and acknowledgment to do any penance, St. I § " 

Francis commanded him to cast himself naked at the 

poor man's feet, and confess that he had sinned against 

him by detraction, and beg his pardon and prayers. His 

companion entirely accomplished on the spot the penance 

laid upon him. 

(j)We read also in another place of the same Chronicles 
that the same Saint, having for a time almost quite lost 
his sight by profuse and continual weeping, went to look 
for Brother Bernard to find comfort in conversing with 
him of God, of which he had a special gift, so that they 
often spent the whole night together talking of spiritual 
things and heaven. When he came to his cell, which was 
in a remote part of the mountain, Brother Bernard was 
wrapt in prayer; and the holy man Francis called from 
hard by his cell, saying, " Brother Bernard, come to talk 
to this blind man." But he, all entranced as he was in 
God, heard nothing and made no answer to the Saint. 
After a little interval, he repeated his call once more : 
" Brother dear, Friar Bernard, come to console this poor 
blind man." As Friar Bernard did not answer him, St. 
Francis turned away, very sad and murmuring within 
himself that Brother Bernard, though called many times, 
ha$ not taken the trouble to answer. The Saint thus 



tr. iv 

went his way, lamenting on the road and abashed. Then 
he went apart from his companion, and put himself in 
prayer on this doubt, how it was that Brother Bernard 
would not answer him, and at once heard God's reply, 
who reproved him, and said to him : " Why art thou 
troubled, little man? Can it possibly be reasonable that 
a man should leave God for a creature? Brother Ber- 
nard, when thou didst call, was with Me and not by him- 
self, and therefore could not come to thee, nor answer 
thee a word, because he did not hear thee." The holy 
Father at once returned to Brother Bernard in a great 
flutter, to accuse himself and receive from him penance 
for this thought ; and finding that he had got up from his 
prayer, he threw himself at his feet, telling his fault, and 
relating the rebuke which the Lord had given him, and 
bade Brother Bernard under obedience to inflict on him 
the penance which he should command him to inflict. 
But Brother Bernard, suspecting that the Saint would 
command something extreme in the way of humility, as 
he was wont to do in contempt and chastisement of him- 
self, sought means to excuse himself, and said : " I am 
ready, Father, to do what you command, provided you 
promise me on your part that you will do what I tell you." 
The holy Father was content to agree to this, being 
readier to obey than to command. Then the Saint said : 
" I command you under holy obedience that, in punish- 
ment of my presumption, when I am lying my length 
upon the ground, you put your feet one on my breast 
and the other on my mouth, and thus step three times 
over me, treading on my breast and my mouth, saying 
the words that I deserve : ' Lie there on the ground, 
caitiff son of Peter Bernardon, whence came upon thee 
such pride, seeing thou art so base and vile?' " Brother 
Bernard hearing this was in doubt what to do ; but for 
obedience sake, and not to distress the holy Father, he 
did it with as much reverence as he could. That done, St. 
Francis said: "Now do you command what you wish me to 
do under holy obedience." Said Brother Bernard : "Under 
holy obedience I command you that, whenever the two 
of us are together, you chide me very severely for my 
faults." Father St. Francis was much pained at this, 


because he held him in great reverence for his holiness ; 
and from that time forth the Saint never stayed any long 
time with Brother Bernard, not to have occasion to scold 
so holy a soul ; but when he went to see or hear him 
speak of God, he brought the interview shortly to a close. 
(^Surius relates that one day the priest of the church 
came to visit the holy Abbot Arsenius, who was ill. He 
found him lying on a carpet, and at the head of the bed 
a pillow. There came with the priest an aged monk,, 
who, finding Arsenius thus, began to take scandal, think- 
ing that these were comfortable quarters enough for a 
man who they said was so holy, not knowing who Arse- 
nius was. Then the priest, who was a sagacious man, 
took the aged monk a little apart, and questioned him : 
" Pray tell me, Father, what you were before you became 
a monk." He answered that he was very poor, and had 
no property nor means of livelihood to speak of. Then 
the priest replied : " But know that Arsenius, before he 
was a monk, was a person very well off and in a high 
station, a tutor to princes, and foiling in gold in his house ; 
and for a man like that to have left all things and come 
to this poverty and humility, see whether there is not 
something to admire there, and whether the carpet and 
pillow that he has is an excess of comfort for a man reared 
in such abundance, and now aged and infirm." The old 
man stood abashed and convinced. 

(|)Cassian relates of the Abbot Machetes that, discoursing 
and teaching on this subject that we must not judge any- 
one, he told of himself that he had judged his monks 
particularly on three occasions. The first was, that some 
monks had an abscess formed inside their mouth, which 
gave them much pain, and to be rid of it they put them- 
selves under treatment and had it lanced, which he judged 
to be a fault and a mark of want of mortification. The 
second was, that some others, enfeebled somewhat by the 
rigours of the rough life that they led, under necessity 
made use of a coverlet of goats' hair to lie upon and cover 
themselves withal, and he judged this to be an excess of 
comfort and a departure from the austerity that monks 
should practise. The third was, that secular persons 
came, and were moved by devotion to beg blessed oil of 



tr. iv 

the monks, and they blessed and gave it them ; and he 
thought this great presumption on their part, giving them- 
selves out for Saints. He went on to acknowledge that, 
in punishment for these blameworthy judgments, God 
had let befall him all three particulars, and that he had 
done the same thing which he condemned in others. For 
first of all an abscess formed in his mouth ; and compelled 
by the great pain and torment it gave him, and the 
advice of his elders, he had put himself under treat- 
ment and got it lanced. And under stress of this 
same infirmity he made use of the aforesaid coverlet ; 
and constrained by the earnest entreaties and importunity 
of secular persons, he had given them blessed oil. He 
concluded by admonishing all to take warning by his 
example, dread and carefully shun this vice, saying that 
they would come to fall into the same case on which they 
pronounced judgment, as had happened to himself. 

^) Anastasius, Abbot of the Monastery of Mount Sina, 
who flourished at the time of the sixth General Council, 
relates that there was in his monastery a monk, who did 
not pay so much attention to the practices of the com- 
munity, choir, fasts, disciplines, and the like, and was not 
taken to be such a good Religious. The hour of his death 
came, and they found him in great joy. Anastasius re- 
proved him : "How now, can a monk who has taken life so 
easily be so cheerful at this hour?" The monk replied : 
" Be not astonished^ Father, the Lord has sent me an 
angel to tell me that I am saved, because I have accom- 
plished His word : Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: 
forgive, and ye shall be forgiven (Luke vi. 37). And 
though it is true that I have not been so faithful to the 
exercises of the Community, partly through negligence, 
partly through my want of health ; yet I suffered them to 
ill-treat me, and forgave them from my heart, and judged 
them not, but rather excused what they did or said ; for 
this I am full of joy." 


Of other manners of union and friendships not good 

We have treated of the union and love that is good and 
spiritual ; now we shall proceed to treat of three manners 
there are of union and love, not good nor spiritual, but 
evil and hurtful. ; St. Basil in his Monastic Constitutions 
says that Religious ought to have great union and charity 
one with another; but in such sort that there be no par- 
ticular friendships nor affections, whereby two or three 
band themselves together to keep up such affections, for 
this would not be charity, but division and sedition, even 
though such friendship seemed just and holy. And in 
his first sermon De Institutionibus Monachorum, going 
into this point more in detail, he says : " If there be any- 
one found to have more affection for one Religious than 
for another, even if it be for his own brother according 
to the flesh, or on any, other consideration, let him be 
punished as one wronging common charity." And he 
gives the reason there, and more expressly in the follow- 
ing sermon, how it is that herein he does an injury to the 
community ; the reason being, that he who loves one more 
than another shows, clearly that he does not love the others 
perfectly, since he does not love them all as he does this 
one, and thus he offends the others and wrongs the whole 
community. And if to offend one individual is a matter 
so grave the Lord says it is to touch the applet of his eye 
(Zach. ii. 8), what shall it be to offend a whole community, 
and such a community? And so St. Basil then strongly 
charges Religious in no manner to love some individuals 
more particularly than others, nor have special dealings 
with some more than with others, so as not to aggrieve 
any one nor give offence to any one (2 Cor. vi. 3), but to 
have a common and general love of charity for all, emu- 
lating therein the bounty and charity of God, who sends 
His sunshine and rain upon all equally (Matt. v. 45). The 
Saint goes on to say that these particular friendships in 
Religion are a great seedplot of envy and suspicion, and 
hatreds and enmities ; and further cause divisions, private 




meetings and cliques, which are the pest of Religious 
Life, for there one discovers his temptations, another his 
rash judgments, another his complaints, and other secret 
things that ought to be hushed up. There go on detrac- 
tions and criticisms of one another, and sometimes of the 
Superior. There people infect one another with their 
mutual faults in such sort that each catches the fault of 
the other in a few days. Finally these friendships are 
the cause of much breaking of rules, and of the doing of 
many things that ought not to be done, to suit one's 
friend, as they experience too well who form such friend- 

St. Ephrem says : " Familiarities and conversations 
of this sort do no little damage to the soul." Thus it is 
necessary that we should avoid and stand greatly on our 
guard against them, and always hold this for a funda- 
mental principle, that here in Religion we must not have 
particular friends, intimacies and exclusive dealings that 
may offend the community. Our friendship should be 
spiritual, not founded on flesh and blood, nor on long 
acquaintance and familiarity, nor on other human titles 
and foundations, but on God our Lord, who embraces all. 
Thus there should be an equality of love with all, as with 
sons of God and brothers of Christ. Let us never in any 
way consent to our heart being captivated by any crea- 
ture ; let it be the captive of God alone. 

In the Chronicles of the Order of St. Francis it is re- 
lated of a holy man, Brother John of Lucca, that he with- 
drew from and greatly shunned familiar conversations; 
and one who was fond of and desired to profit by his 
conversation complained one day, asking why he was so 
shy and dry in treating with those who wished him well. 
The servant of God answered: " It is for your good I 
do it ; since the more I am united with God, of the more 
profit shall I be to those who wish me well ; whereas 
these your soothing friendships separate me in some 
degree from God, and so do harm to you and me." 


Of the second manner of friendships and associations 
that are not good 

There is a second manner of particular friendship, dif- 
ferent from the first inasmuch as it has a different end, 
but not less harmful to the community and to union and 
fraternal charity, nay rather more : it is when one desir- 
ing advancement and influence and reputation unites and 
attaches himself to those whom he thinks likely to for- 
ward him thereto. Cassian says that severe bodily ail- 
ments develop little by little, and spiritual ailments and 
great evils of soul alike develop little by little. Let us 
then describe the gradual development of this particular 
malady, and along with it we will tell the ordinary way 
in which a Religious student comes to deteriorate and go 
to ruin. 

Such a one comes out of the noviceship having made 
good progress there by the grace of God, and entertain- 
ing a high esteem of spiritual things and much affection 
for them, as it is reasonable he should come out. He 
goes to the Colleges, and there in the ardour of his studies 
he begins to fall off in his spiritual exercises, and either 
leaves them out in part, or does them by routine or for 
form's sake, without drawing fruit from them, which 
comes to the same thing. He goes on further, and as now 
on the one hand his spiritual aspirations are failing him, 
because he does not do his spiritual duties as he ought, 
and on the other knowledge puffs him up (i Cor. viii. i) 
and makes him vain, he comes little by little to set great 
store by genius and talents, and lose his esteem of virtue 
and humility. This is the gate whereby ordinarily all the 
undoing and loss of students enters and commences, and 
much heed should be taken to prevent it accordingly. 
Steadily there decreases in them the appreciation and 
esteem of the quality of virtue, humility, mortification, and 
all that regards their advancement in spiritual things ; 
while their admiration and esteem of the quality of learning 
and ability steadily increases, because they fancy that 



thereby they are destined to thrive and come out strong 
men, regarded and esteemed. Thus they begin to fix their 
gaze upon this, and desire to be taken for men of fine 
genius and talent, and to that end they desire to come 
out well in disputation and maintaining of theses ; they 
solicit with much eagerness whatever may lead to that, 
and seek occasions to shine and show off, and perchance 
to cast others into the shade and upset them, that they 
may not get the start of them. Going on further, they 
begin to aim at ingratiating themselves with some Master 
and grave Father, and with all who they think can help 
and back them up with Superiors, and they strike up a 
friendship with such, all in order to mount up and win 
consideration and be regarded and esteemed, and that 
these influential persons may be favourable to them in their 

This is one of the most harmful and pernicious things 
that can be found in Religion, and most contrary to union : 
for what greater evil can invade Religion than the 
entrance of ambition and self-seeking? And what 
greater pestilence could enter in here than to have lan- 
guage of this sort coming in amongst us, that now it is 
necessary for a man to look to himself, and get others to 
back him ; and that if he does not, he will be forgotten and 
thrust into a corner, and no account made of him, and 
that that is how things go nowadays even here? God 
deliver us from such evil language, and much more from 
there being any one found to begin to instil this poison 
into the heart now of one guileless man, now of another, 
who was ever so far removed from it, and so open his eyes 
to his perdition. Very different from this is the truth of 
what the Society professes. Our Father in the Tenth Part 
of his Constitutions says : " Let all who are of the Society 
give themselves to solid and perfect virtues and to spiritual 
things, and make more account of them than of learning 
and other natural and human gifts." This is what the 
Society esteems and values : therefore let not the old 
serpent with his cunning and venom deceive you, persuad- 
ing you that by breaking the commandments of your 
elders, and eating of the forbidden fruit, you shall become 
as gods (Gen. iii. 5). Let him not make you believe that 


thereby you will thrive and be honoured and esteemed, for 
he lies, liar as he is, the fact being that you will eome in 
for nothing but loss of character ; whereas if you go by 
the other way of virtue, making always greater account 
of spiritual things and of what makes for your spiritual 
progress, in that way you will thrive, and the Lord will 
lift you up both in the one respect and in the other : He 
will give you the virtue that you desire, and honour and 
esteem also : you will be regarded and esteemed before 
God and before men. 

We have in confirmation of this a history very much to 
the purpose in the Third Book of Kings. Holy Scripture 
tells how God bade Solomon to ask whatever he would, 
and He would give it to him. Solomon set his eyes on 
wisdom, and asked it of God, and Scripture says : God 
was so pleased that Solomon had set his eyes on wisdom 
that he said to him: Since thou hast asked me for this, 
and not for long life, nor riches, nor victories and ven- 
geance on thine enemies, I give thee wisdom, and that in 
such sort that thou shalt he called the Wise, eminently 
so, since there hath not been before thee, nor shall be after 
thee, any one the like (3 Kings iii. 10-12). And further, 
and this is what makes to our purpose, so greatly was 
God pleased with what Solomon had so happily resolved 
upon choosing and asking, that not content with giving 
him the wisdom that he asked for, and which was given 
him so abundantly, as has been said, He gave him also 
what he had not asked for : God gave him both the one 
and the other. Since thou hast asked so fitly, I will give 
thee also what thou hast not asked for, riches and honour, 
and that in such abundance as never had any other king 
anything like it (lb. ver. 13.). So also will God deal with 
you, if you do the right thing in choosing and setting 
before your eyes true wisdom, which consists in tr s ue and 
solid virtues. He will give you the virtue that you desire, 
on which you set your eyes, because that is very pleasing 
to God ; and He will give you also the honour and esteem, 
on which you did not set your eyes : God will give you 
both the one and the other. And so we see by experience 
that these are they who are regarded and esteemed both 
before God and before men. For we have God's word 

2 34 


TR. iv 

for it, that he who humbleth himself shall be exalted 
(Luke xiv. 1 1) ; and the more you humble yourself and 
give yourself to virtue, the more you shall be exalted and 
esteemed ; and the more you fly from honour and esteem, 
the more will it persist in following you, as the shadow 
follows him who flies from it. But as for those other 
ambitious people, who go like, chameleons swallowing air 
to be swollen out and seem great, the more will honour 
fly from them ; for where they think to mount up, they 
go down ; and where they think to be regarded and 
esteemed, they lose caste. In fact they come to be taken 
for proud people, restless and disturbers of Religion ; and 
so there is nothing for it but to cut them off from it as 
unsound and rotten members, that they may not infect 

But to come back to our point, I say that here in 
Religion, as we ought to be very far from ambitions and 
pretensions, so also we ought to be far from forming those 
friendships which are directed thereto. We ought to be 
tied to nobody, nor should it be the word here : I am of 
Paul, I of Apollo, I of Cephas (i Cor. i. 12). I am not 
this man's man, nor that man's man, but my Superior's 
man : with him I aim at being united, and with no one else 
in particular. We have no need in the Society of patrons, 
or supporters, nor of standing upon compliments, nor of 
forming a connection with any one, for we are not place- 
hunters, nor have we come here on the hunt for anything 
but our salvation. Be you a good Religious, and attend in 
earnest to the business on which you have come into Re- 
ligion^ and you will have no need of any one but God. This 
is he who has peace and comfort in Religion : the others 
will never have it, as they themselves experience and con- 
fess. A Religious should be ashamed to be taken for one 
who goes about looking for patrons, currying favour, and 
flattering perhaps others, that they may support him 
and shelter him, for this argues great imperfection 
and great weakness. The house that needs props is 
weak, it is in the way of falling ; the tree that must be 
supported by stays is tender, not strong, not well-rooted. 
So you, if you have to go about looking for stays and sup- 
ports, are tender, ill-rooted in virtue and even in Religion. 




This is the warning that our Father General Aquaviva 
gives particularly to students, and says that they must 
be in no way allowed to attach themselves to older 
Fathers, nor have them for patrons ; and he warns those 
same Fathers to beware of such patronage, and much 
more to beware of trying to get the young ones to make 
up to them and want to have them for a refuge, and again 
of making offers to young men to help them in all their 
needs, and still more of any senior taking it for an honour 
and a badge of authority to have young men for clients, 
and resenting their not applying to him, taking such re- 
serve on their part for a proof that they undervalue him 
and make little account of him, and perhaps going so far 
as to tell some young man that he is very stiff and shows 
too much gravity. That is not showing too much gravity, 
but showing oneself a good Religious, for this is Religious 
Life and the other thing is not, but a thing smacking 
much of the world and very worldly. And if any one 
complains of you on that account, he will be complaining 
of your being virtuous, and like a good Religious keeping 
so far apart from this familiarity, so redolent of the world 
and so contrary to Religion. May the Lord grant that 
no other complaint may ever be made of us. 


Of a third sort of union and association very harmful 
to Religion 

The third sort of associations and particular friendships 
is worse and more contrary to union and fraternal charity 
than the preceding; it is when sundry individuals band 
and ally themselves to alter the institute of a Religious 
Order and the established rule and holy enactments there- 
of. St. Bernard on the words of Canticles (i. 5), The 
children of my mother have fought against me, writes : 
" Not that the Spouse, the Church, forgets what she has 
suffered from Gentiles, Jews and persecutors, but this 
she more expressly laments, and feels with peculiar keen- 
ness, I mean the war that is waged by enemies within our 


own house, a war far direr and more deadly than any- 
thing 1 that foreign enemies can do." We may apply the 
same saying to a Religious Order, as a chief member of 
the Church. The children of my mother have fought 
against me, those whom I have reared, given them their 
studies and their degrees at so much cost and labour to 
myself : these arms that I gave them to fight against the 
world and convert souls to God, they have turned against 
me, and with them make war upon their mother : see if 
this be not a grief to feel. Still, deplorable as it is, we 
ought not to be surprised at such a persecution. Blessed 
St. Francis experienced it in his days in his Order ; and 
the Catholic Church, even in the lifetime of the Apostles, 
suffered this persecution at the hands of her own children, 
who rose up against her with the errors and heresies that 
they invented. The members follow in the wake of their 
Head, who is Christ, who travelled by this road of labours 
and persecutions, because thereby the elect are purified as 
gold in the crucible. So says St. Paul : There must be 
factions and divisions, that those who are truly good 
may be made manifest among you (i Cor. xi. 19) ; and 
Christ our Lord : It needs must be that scandals come, 
nevertheless woe to that man by whom scandal cometh 
(Matt, xviii. 7). Scandals in the Church, scandals in 
Religion, because we are men : but that is no excuse ; 
woe to him that causes the scandals, it were better for him 
if he had never been born. 

The glorious St. Basil speaks gravely and severely 
against these combinations : "For any of their own initia- 
tive to cut themselves off from the rest of the community, 
and seek to make a society within the society, that is a 
vicious society, and those are evil associations. It is a sedi- 
tion and a division. ' ' A malicious machination it is in Reli- 
gion, when people go about to alter and adulterate the 
established customs of their first Institute, and all the 
worse, the more they colour it with pretence of improve- 
ment and reform. St. Basil says that such persons are 
first to be admonished and corrected in private, and after- 
wards before others, according to the order laid down in 
the Gospel ; and if they are none the more amended by 
that, let him be to thee as the heathen and the publican 




(Matt, xviii. 17). Such a one should be counted excom- 
municate and separated from the rest, like the sick of a 
contagious malady, that he may not infect the others. And 
our Father recommends the same in his Constitutions, 
according to the Apostle : Would that they -were ' cut off 
that trouble you (Gal. v. 12). Cut off the rotten member, 
that it may not infect the rest. 

It is easy to see how great this evil is, and how harm- 
ful to Religious : by the mere exposition of it its 
poisonous nature is shown, and so it should not be neces- 
sary to take the trouble of opening it out further. But 
the matter of itself is so grave that we will here enlarge 
upon it, and show cause sufficient for us not only to abhor, 
but to detest and abominate so great an evil, and remain 
rooted in attachment to our Institute. Religious Life is 
not an invention of men, but of God ; and so the things 
laid down for the preservation and increase of a Religious 
Order must not be taken for human inventions, as though 
they were the contrivance of some particular individual ; 
they are the contrivances and inventions of God. As 
God took and chose the Blessed St. Francis for the 
founder of his Order, and the Blessed St. Dominic for 
the founder of his, and our blessed Father Ignatius for 
the Founder of the Society, and so of the rest ; so He 
gave them and showed them the means and the 
particular mode of procedure that was most suitable for 
the well-being and progress of the Order, beyond what 
they could have discovered for themselves, because God's 
■works are perfect (Deut. xxxii. 4), and in any other way 
this work of God would have remained mutilated and im- 
perfect. So in the Life of our Father, from an answer he 
gave, meeting something said by Father James Laynez, we 
may gather that the more substantial things of our Insti- 
tute, — what we may call its sinews and foundations, — were 
revealed and inspired by God our Lord to our blessed 
Father Ignatius. God Himself being author and source of 
this Order, took Ignatius for its Head and His principal 
instrument in the work of foundation. This may likewise 
be gathered from the method he is said to have observed 
in making and writing the Constitutions, and the abun- 
dant prayers and tears which every word cost him of those 


words which he has left us in writing. Thus, to deter- 
mine whether it was fitting or not that the churches of our 
Professed Houses should have any revenue for the upkeep 
of the fabric, — a point which is not the most substantial 
of our Institute, — he said Mass for forty consecutive days, 
and gave himself to prayer with more fervour than usual. 
Hence we may see how much communication and consul- 
tation he had with God over the Constitutions, and the 
light that our Lord gave him to choose and determine that 
which would be most agreeable to His Divine Majesty. 
And that we may not seem to pitch our voice too high, or 
to be crying our own wares, — although the reason already 
given is sufficient of itself, — we have other testimony 
stronger than this (John v. 36), and it is well that we 
should allege it, for it is very important for us to be well 
grounded in this principle. 

It is recounted in the Chronicles of the Order of St. 
Francis that the Saint retired with two companions to 
Mount Caynerio, near Reate, to compose and write his 
Rule for presentation to the Sovereign Pontiff, so that he 
might obtain the Apostolic Bull of its confirmation, since 
hitherto it had not been confirmed by Bull, but only by 
word of mouth vivae vocis oraculo by Innocent III. There 
on that mountain he fasted forty days on bread and water, 
persevering day and night in continual prayer : so he 
composed his Rule, as the Lord inspired and revealed, as 
is said there, and as actually was the case, as will appear 
presently. Taking the Rule written on the mountain, he 
gave it to keep to Friar Elias, his Vicar General, a pru- 
dent man, according to the world, and a learned man. 
Elias, seeing it founded on greater self-contempt, humility 
and poverty, than seemed to him expedient, lost the Rule 
on purpose, that it might not be confirmed, but another 
more to his liking. Father St. Francis, who sought 
rather to follow the will of God than that of man, and 
made small account of the opinions of the wise men of 
this world, returned to the mountain to keep another 
forty days fast, and by fasting and prayer to ascertain the 
will of God and compose another Rule. Friar Elias know- 
ing this set himself about to thwart what was going on, 
and assembled some Superiors and Doctors among the 



friars, and told them how Father St. Francis wanted to 
make a Rule so strict that it was impossible to keep it. 
They required him as Vicar General to go to St. Francis, 
and tell him on the part of them all that they had no mirid 
to be bound by this Rule. Friar Elias did not dare to go 
alone with this message, but said that he would go with 
them. They all went to the mountain where the holy 
Father was praying in a lonely cell, and coming near it 
Friar Elias called for St. Francis. The Saint knowing 
his voice came out of the cell, and seeing so many friars 
with him asked what these friars wanted. Friar Elias 
answered : " They are Superiors of the Order, who having 
heard tell of the new Rule that you are making, and 
fearing that you are making it too severe, protest that 
they have no mind to be bound by it, that you are making 
it for yourself, and not for them." The Saint hearing these 
words fell on his knees, and raising his eyes to heaven 
said : " Lord did I not tell Thee that these people would 
not believe me?" And suddenly there came a voice from 
heaven which said : " Francis, there is nothing of thine 
in this Rule, all that is in it is Mine, and I want the Rule 
kept to the letter, to the letter, to the letter, without gloss, 
without gloss, without gloss. I know how much human 
weakness can stand, and how much I intend to aid it ; let 
them that have no mind to keep it leave the Order, and 
leave it to the rest to observe. ' ' Francis turned to the 
Superiors and said : " Have you heard? have you heard? 
have you heard ? Do you want me to get it said to you 
a second time?" But Friar Elias and the Superiors, out 
of themselves, trembling and dumbfounded, recognising 
their fault, turned on their heels without uttering another 
word. The holy patriarch returned to compose his Rule, 
neither more nor less than what the Lord had revealed to 
him ; and having finished the composition he took it to 
the Sovereign Pontiff, who was Honorius III. The Pope 
reading the Rule, a'nd remarking on its severity and 
poverty, which seemed very strait and difficult to observe, 
St. Francis replied : " I, Holy Father, have not put one 
single word into this Rule out of my own opinion and 
judgment ; but our Lord Jesus Christ has compiled and 
composed it, who alone knows very well all that is neces- 



sary and profitable for the salvation of souls, and the good 
estate of the friars, and the preservation of this His Order: 
to Him all the things to come in the Church and in this 
Order are manifest and present ; and that being so, I 
neither ought nor can change anything." And the Pope, 
moved by the inspiration of God, gave the Bull and 
Apostolic confirmation of the Rule, ad perpetuam rei me- 

In this manner God is wont to inspire and give the 
Rule to the founders of Religious Orders ; and in this 
manner He inspired and gave it to our Holy Father 
Ignatius. And of this we have another account, even 
more authentic than the preceding, since we have the 
Apostolic Bulls with their leaden seals that say so. Gre- 
gory XIII., of happy memory, in the Bull and Constitu- 
tion which commences Ascendente Domino, and in another 
which he : gave before, commencing Quanto fructuosius, 
having first set down all the points of our Institute, and 
in particular those that seemed to raise some difficulty, 
and about which he had been informed that some both 
within and without the Society called for investigation, 
declares and says expressly these formal words : "Where- 
fore the said Ignatius by divine inspiration (divino in- 
stinctu) so considered that the body of the Society should 
be organised in its members, order and grades." What 
clearer language could have been used? 

This being presupposed, let us come to the point, and 
enter into a reckoning with those who seek to form private 
associations for the altering of a Religious Institute and 
the things established by its founder. Don't you think 
it is great pride to have such a high idea of one- 
self, and of one's own judgment and opinion, as to dare 
to say, the road that Ignatius has left us laid down in 
his Constitutions is not a good one ; it would be better for 
us to go by the road that pleases me. What greater folly 
and wrongheadedness could there be? The greatness of 
this infatuation can be seen from another similar to it : 
one well exemplifies the other. One of the greatest evils 
and sins there are in the Church of God is heresy. I do 
not dispute now whether there can be any other sin 
greater, since it is clear that a greater sin would be the 




express hatred of God : but those sins are not commonly 
committed here on earth, there in hell is their place. But 
I say that of the sins that commonly find place here on 
earth, heresy, whereby one separates oneself from the 
Church, is said to be the greatest; and with reason, for 
besides its destroying the foundation of the whole Chris- 
tion Religion, which is faith, and other reasons that there 
are, does it not strike you as an excessive and extreme 
pride? To think that any one should be so confident in 
himself, and hold so fast to his own judgment, as to come 
to believe and rather take for true what seems good to 
him and suits his fancy, in preference to what the 
Catholic Roman Church has settled to be believed, what 
has been approved in so many Councils, where has been 
assembled the cream of all the good there was in the world 
as well in learning as in sanctity, and has been confirmed 
by the blood , of so many thousands of martyrs who have 
died for it, and by innumerable miracles that have been 
wrought in confirmation of it ! To think that a man 
should come to say : ' But I rather believe in my last 
night's dream, or in what a Martin Luther tells me/ — a 
bad man and a perverse, an apostate, immoral, and living 
in sacrilegious concubinage! What greater pride and 
folly, what greater blindness and absurdity could there 
be ! But this is the way they go, and this is what in their 
own measure they do, those persons we are speaking of, 
who. prefer their own judgment and opinion to his whom 
God our Lord has taken for head and founder of this Re- 
ligious Order, and think that the way they have dreamt of 
and invented is better than that which God our Lord has 
inspired and revealed to him whom He was pleased to 
take for His principal instrument in the foundation of the 
Society. It is a pride and presumption like that of Lucifer. 
What? has God hidden from our Father Ignatius, whom 
He chose for head and founder, the right way that was 
proper for the well-being of the Order, and has revealed 
it to you? Is not this enough to make you understand 
that it is a deceit and delusion of the devil, who wishes 
to take you for his means and instrument to make war on 
the Society, which he so much abhors, and trouble the 
peace and union of the Order, as he took that other, the 


heretic, to trouble the peace of the Church? ' Oh,' you 
say, ' but I am aiming' only at the reform of the Order.' 
You deceive yourself ; the devil, the father of lies, is blind- 
ing you with this false and lying- phrase, for this is not 
to reform the Society, but to destroy and undo the Society. 
And observe that this is no exaggeration, but a plain and 
very clear truth. To reform an Order is, when the Order 
has fallen and departed from its primitive institute, to 
take measures for its return to its first principles, and 
keep the rule and arrangement which its first founder be- 
queathed to it. This is a good and holy work, and many 
Religious Orders have gone through it in the desire to 
maintain themselves in their first institute and rule. But 
to change the institute and primitive way of life that our 
first founder has left us, inspired by God, and to seek to 
introduce another way different from that, is not to reform 
the Order, but to seek to destroy and undo it, and create 
another Order, different from the first, of your own design 
and fashion, and to your own taste, as Friar Elias wanted 
to do with the Order of St. Francis ; and so this is not 
the spirit of God, but of the devil. 

The Holy Council of Trent, dealing with the reforma- 
tion of Religious Orders, and making some very holy 
decrees to that effect, our Father General James Laynez 
laid this supplication before those Fathers : ". Most holy 
Fathers, these decrees of reformation do not seem applic- 
able to our Society of Jesus, seeing that it is at this day 
a new Order, distinct from other Orders, and as such has 
its own distinct method of procedure, approved by the 
Apostolic See ; and by the goodness of God we have not 
departed from our first institute and rule; and so, if these 
decrees shall be applied to it, it will not be reformed, but 
destroyed." The Holy Council fell in with this reasoning, 
and replied : " Hereby however the Holy Synod does not 
intend to make any innovation or prohibition to hinder the 
order of Clerks of the Society of Jesus from being able 
to serve the Lord and His Church, according to their pious 
institute approved by the Holy Apostolic See " (Trid. 
Sess. 25, de reform, cap. 16). The Holy Council of Trent 
did not wish nor venture to change the institute and 
mode of procedure which the Lord gave to the Society by 


means of our blessed Father Ignatius, as approved by the 
Apostolic See, but on the contrary approved and con- 
firmed it, and have you the hardihood to seek to alter 
and change it, for I know not what human regards and 
reasons that occur to you? 

Quite other esteem, and other regard and reverence, 
did he pay to our institute and its founder, — that Cardinal 
of whom there is related in the Life of our Father a thing 
very much to our purpose. It is related there that the 
Cardinal of the Holy Cross, Marcellus Cervini, who came 
afterwards to be Pope and took the name of Marcellus II., 
a little before he was raised to the See of the Sovereign 
Pontiff, had a long argument with Father Doctor Olave, 
a distinguished theologian of the Society, upon that con- 
stitution which we have, that none of our body can accept 
any dignity outside of the Society, unless compelled there- 
to by obedience put upon him by one who can command 
him under pain of sin, and that even the General cannot 
issue such a command except by order and mandate of 
the Sovereign Pontiff, and of this all the Professed make 
a special vow. The Cardinal said that the Society would 
render a greater service to the Church of God by providing 
it with good bishops than by giving it good preachers and 
confessors and that the fruit would be all the greater in- 
asmuch as a good bishop can do more than a poor clerk. 
He alleged many reasons to this effect, to which Father 
Olave replied, giving him to understand that the greatest 
service that the Society could render to Holy Church 
was by keeping itself in its proper purity and lowliness, 
thereby to serve it for a longer period and in greater 
security. And since in the end the Cardinal, thinking his 
own reasons the better, stuck to his opinion, Doctor Olave 
said to him : ' ' If reasons are not enough to convince Your 
Illustrious Lordship and make you change your mind, 
the authority of our Father Ignatius, who thought so, is 
enough to make us believe that that is the better arrange- 
ment." Thereupon the Cardinal said : " Now I give 
in, and say that you are right, for supposing I thought 
that reason was on my side, nevertheless the authority of 
Father Ignatius in this matter would weigh with me more 
than all the reasons in the world. And even Reason 



herself says the same ; for since God our Lord chose him 
to plant in His Church an Order like yours, and to spread 
it all over the world with such fruit of souls, and to rule 
and govern it with such a spirit of prudence as we see has 
been done and is done, it is also to be believed, and it 
would seem that it cannot be otherwise, that the same 
God has revealed and disclosed the manner in which He 
wishes this Order to serve Him and preserve itself for the 
future." With how greater reason should we ourselves, 
who are Religious and should be children of obedience, 
subject ourselves and submit our judgment, when we see 
that a thing is a rule and constitution of the Society, 
ordained by him whom our Lord has given us to be its 
head and founder ! And this especially seeing that it has 
been since so much approved and confirmed by all the 
Sovereign Pontiffs who have been from then up to this 
time, and by the Holy Council of Trent, and that on this 
score the Lord has blessed and made such use of the 
Society, producing such fruit by its means for these sixty 
years and more ! Trespass not over the ancient boun- 
daries which thy fathers have set, says the Wise Man 
(Prov. xxii. 28). 

And so to repress such presumption and venturesome- 
ness, His Holiness Gregory XIII. in his Bull and Con- 
stitution, Ascendente Domino, after having approved and 
confirmed anew the institute and manner of life of the 
Society, and in particular the things which some might 
wish to amend, commands in virtue of holy obedience, 
and under pain of excommunication latae sententiae, and 
incapacity for any office or benefice ipso facto without 
further declaration, that no one whatsoever of any 
state, rank and pre-eminence soever, shall presume in any 
manner to impugn or contradict any point of the Institute 
or Constitutions of the Society, either directly or in- 
directly, not even under colour of disputation or wish to 
know the truth ; and if any doubt arises on these points, 
he says that it is well that the Apostolic See be consulted 
thereupon, or the General of the Society, or other persons 
to whom the matter shall be committed, and that none 
other shall dare to meddle therewith. The same, even at 
greater length, is enacted by his successor Gregory XIV. 



in another Constitution made on this head, which com- 
mences Ecclesiae Catholicae, in very grave words, " Con- 
sidering," he says, " that it would be to the no small pre- 
judice of religious discipline and spiritual perfection, and 
to the great disturbance and detriment of all Religious 
Life, if what has been in holy fashion laid down by foun- 
ders of Orders, and received and approved many times by 
the same Order in its General Congregations, and what is 
more, established and confirmed by this Holy Apostolic 
See, should be, not to say changed, but even modified or 
impugned under any pretext whatsoever, We command in 
virtue of holy obedience all persons, of whatsoever state 
and condition they be, ecclesiastical, or secular, or reli- 
gious, even though they be of the same Society, under 
pain of excommunication latae sententiae, and of being 
held disqualified and incapable of any office and dignity, 
and of privation of active and passive voice, which pen- 
alties are incurred ipso facto without further declaration, 
absolution therefrom reserved to the Apostolic See ; 
and renewing the Constitution of Gregory XIII., our 
predecessor, and all the penalties therein contained, 
— (We command) that none shall presume to impugn 
or contradict any point of the Institute, or Con- 
stitutions, or Decrees of the Society, either directly or 
indirectly, or under colour of greater good, or zeal, or 
any other pretext whatever. ' ' And he adds another thing 
very special and substantial, that none is to propose or 
give-in any memorials on the said subject, for anything 
to be added, or struck out, or changed, except to the 
Sovereign Pontiff immediately, or intermediately through 
his Nuncio or Apostolic Legate, or to the General of the 
Society, or to the General Congregation. And our 
present Holy Father Paul V., in the Bull that he issued 
in the year 1606, confirming the Institute and privileges of 
the Society, makes special mention of these two Constitu- 
tions of Gregory XIII. and Gregory XIV., and approves 
and grants them anew. Hence it appears what pitfalls 
there are about this matter, since none can transgress 
herein without the gravest penalties, and without in- 
curring the greater excommunication ipso facto, whether 
he be of the Society or out of it, religious, cleric, or lay- 


man, of whatsoever state, rank, condition and pre-emin- 
ence he be. 

Let us then conclude with the conclusion of St. Paul 
writing to the Corinthians : For the rest, brethren, rejoice, 
be perfect, exhort one another, be of one mind, have 
peace (2 Cor. xiii. 11). Let us rejoice, my Fathers and 
Brothers, and be glad that the Lord has drawn us to an 
Order so holy and professing such perfection; and let us 
speak ever of this perfection, and how to keep ourselves 
in great peace and union, exhorting and animating one 
another thereto ; and in this way the Lord, who is the 
author and fountain of peace and love, will ever be with us. 



Of the value and excellence of prayer 

The glorious Apostle and Evangelist St. John, in the 
fifth and eighth chapters of the Apocalypse, expresses 
admirably well the excellency and merit of prayer. There 
came an angel and stood before the altar, having in his 
hand a thurible of gold, to whom was given much incense, 
to the end he should offer up of the prayers of the saints 
upon the golden altar which was before the throne of God. 
And the smoke of the incense of these prayers went up 
from the hand of the angel to the presence of God 
(Apoc. viii. 3, 4). St. Chrysostom says that one proof 
of the merit of prayer is that in the Holy Scripture, it 
alone is compared to thymiama, which was a composi- 
tion of incense and of many other admirable perfumes ; for 
as the smell of well composed thymiama is very delicious, 
so prayer also, when well made, is very acceptable to 
God, and gives great joy to the angels and all the citizens 
of heaven. Thus St. John, speaking in such human 
language as we can speak, says that those heavenly beings 
hold in their hands pouncet-boxes full of admirable per- 
fumes, which are the prayers of the Saints, and these they 
apply again and again to their most pure nostrils to enjoy 
that sweet odour (Apoc. v. 8). 

St. Augustine speaking of prayer says, " What more 
excellent than prayer? What more useful and profitable? 
What sweeter and more delicious? What higher and 
more exalted in the whole scheme of our Christian reli- 
gion?" The same says St. Gregory of Nyssa : " Nothing 
of the things of this life that are esteemed and valued has 
the advantage of prayer." St. Bernard says that though 


2 4 8 


TR. V 

it is quite an ordinary thing for the angels to assist God's 
servants by their invisible presence, to deliver them from 
the deceits and machinations of the enemy, and to raise 
their desires to serve God with greater fervour, yet it is 
especially when we are occupied in making our prayer 
that these angelic spirits assist us. He quotes to this 
effect many passages of Holy Scripture, as that of the 
Psalmist : In the sight and presence of the angels I will 
praise thee (Ps. 137) : There went forward the princes 
along with the singers in the midst of the young maidens 
sounding their timbrels (Ps. 67), which he interprets 
saying that the angels join with those who make prayer ; 
and again what the angel said to Toby : When thou didst 
pray with tears, I offered thy prayer to God (Tob. xii. 12). 
In the instant that prayer goes out from the mouth of 
him that prays, at once the angels, who are hard by, 
catch it up and present it to God. St. Hilary says the 
same : " The angels preside over the prayers of the saints, 
and offer them each day to God." Thus when we are at 
prayer, we are surrounded by angels, in the midst of 
angels, doing the office of angels, exercising ourselves in 
what we are to do for ever in heaven, praising and blessing 
the Lord ; and for this we are specially favoured and loved 
by the angels, as being their companions now and destined 
to be their companions hereafter, filling up the seats of 
their former companions who fell. 

St. John Chrysostom speaking of the excellences of 
prayer, and wishing to say great things of it, says that 
one of the greatest of great things that it is possible to 
say of it is that whoever is at prayer is dealing and con- 
versing with God. " Consider the height, dignity and 
glory to which the Lord has raised you, in that you can 
speak and converse with God, hold conversations and 
colloquies with Jesus Christ, desire what you would, and 
ask for what you desire." Considera quanta est tibi con- 
cessa felicitas, quanta gloria attributa orationibus , fabu- 
lari cum Deo, cum Christo miscere colloquia, optare quod 
veils, quod desideras postulare. No tongue, he says, 
suffices to declare the dignity and height of this intercourse 
and conversation with God, or its utility and profit for 
ourselves. If in those who here on earth ordinarily con- 

ch. ii 


verse with prudent and wise men, in a short time there is 
felt a notable improvement, and it is recognised that they 
have advanced in prudence and wisdom, and to those who 
converse with good men virtue and goodness is communi- 
cated, — hence the proverb, ' deal with the good and you 
shall be one of them, ' — what shall be said of those who 
speak and converse again and again with God? Approach 
to the Lord and ye shall receive light from him (Ps. 33). 
What light and knowledge, what blessings and benefits 
shall they receive from such dealing and conversation ! 
And so St. John Chrysostom says that there is nothing 
that makes us grow so much in virtue as frequent prayer, 
and dealing and conversing repeatedly with God, because 
thereby there comes to be formed the heart of a generous 
and high-souled man, a heart ready to despise the things 
of the world and to soar above them, uniting and trans- 
forming itself in a manner into God, and becoming spiri- 
tual and holy. 


Of the need we have of prayer 

Of the need in which we stand of prayer we have abun- 
dant experience : would to God we had not so much ! For 
man being in such need of the favour of God, by reason 
of his being liable to so many falls, surrounded by so many 
dangerous enemies, and wanting so many things for soul 
and body, he has no other resource but constant recourse 
to God, begging with his whole heart divine favour and 
aid in all his dangers and necessities. So King Josaphat 
said, on being surrounded by enemies : As we are so 
weak and so poor and so needy and know not what to do, 
we have no other resource hut to raise our eyes to God, 
and ask in prayer for what we want and stand in need of 
(2 Chron. xx. 12). So Pope Celestine in a decretal letter 
to teach the importance of prayer says : " I know nothing 
better to say to you than what my predecessor, Zozimus, 
said : What time is there in which, we have not need of 
God? None. Then in every time, in all cases, 
in all affairs we need to have recourse to Him by prayer 



TR. V 

and crave His favour,- great pride it is for a weak and 
miserable man to presume anything of himself." In omni- 
bus igitur actibus, causis, cogitationibus, motibus, adjutor 
et protector orandus est Deus. 

St. Thomas treating of prayer gives one very good and 
substantial reason for its necessity, and it is the teaching 
of Saints Damascene, Augustine, Basil, Chrysostom and 
Gregory, that what God by His divine providence and 
disposition has determined from eternity to give to souls, 
that He gives them in time by this means of prayer, and 
on this means depends the deliverance, salvation, conver- 
sion and cure of many souls, and the progress and perfec- 
tion of others. Thus just as God has determined and 
arranged that by means of matrimony the human race 
should be multiplied, and by means of ploughing and 
sowing and cultivating the earth there should be abund- 
ance of bread and wine and other fruits, and by means 
of craftsmen and building materials there should be houses 
and buildings, so He has determined to work many effects 
in the world and impart many graces and gifts to souls 
by this means of prayer. So Christ our Redeemer says 
in the gospel : Ask and it shall be given you, seek and 
ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you; for 
every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh 
findeth, and the door, shall be opened to him that knocketh 
(Matt. vii. 7). Thus this is the means and this the chan- 
nel whereby the Lord wishes to supply our needs, and 
enrich our poverty, and fill us with good things and graces. 
Hereby is well seen the great need that we have of having 
recourse to prayer. And so the Saints make a good com- 
parison in saying that it is a chain of gold, attached to 
heaven and reaching right down to earth, whereby all 
good things are lowered and let down to us, and whereby 
we must mount up to God. Or they say that it is the 
ladder of Jacob, that reached from earth to heaven, where- 
by angels ascended and descended. The glorious St. 
Augustine says that prayer is the key of heaven, that it fits 
all the gates of heaven and all the coffers of the treasures 
of God, and nothing is shut against it. And elsewhere he 
says that what bread is to the body, prayer is to the soul. 
The same says the holy martyr and Abbot Nilus. 


One of the chief reasons whereby the Saints declare on 
the one hand the value and worth of prayer, and on the 
other the great need in which we stand of it, is because 
prayer is a chief and most efficacious means to attune and 
put in order our whole life, and to overcome and smooth 
down all the difficulties that present themselves in the way 
of virtue. And so they say that on it depends the govern- 
ment of our whole life ; and that when prayer is well in 
order, life is well in order ; and when prayer gets out of 
order, everything else gets out of order. " He knows 
how to live well, who knows how to pray well " : recte 
novit vivere, qui recte novit orare, says St. Augustine. 
And St. John Climacus says that a servant of God once 
said a remarkable thing to him, which was this : from 
early morning he knew what was to be the order of the 
whole day : meaning that if he made his morning prayer 
well, all the rest went well ; and contrariwise, when he did 
not make his morning prayer well. And it is the same 
with all the rest of life. And so we ourselves very com- 
monly experience, that when we make our prayer well, 
we go on in such good order, so cheerful, so vigorous, so 
full of good purposes and desires, that it is something to 
praise God for ; and contrariwise, when we are careless at 
prayer, everything goes amiss. St, Bonaventure says : 
"Where prayer fails, thereupon everything goes forlorn" ; 
thereupon tepidity sets in, thereupon little by little the 
spirit begins to grow feeble and to wither and to lose that 
vigour and heartiness which it once had ; thereupon, I 
know not how, all those holy purposes and thoughts of 
first fervour disappear, and all our passions begin to 
awake and revive; thereupon the man comes out a lover 
of vain mirth, a lover of talking, laughing and enjoyment 
and such like other vanities ; and what is worse, thereupon 
there bursts into new life the appetite of vainglory, of 
anger, of envy, of ambition, and the like, which before 
seemed to be dead. 

The Abbot Nilus says that prayer should be the looking- 
glass of the Religious. In it we should look and look 
again every day for a long time to see and recognise our 
faults, to go on getting rid of anything ugly that we find 
in ourselves. In this looking-glass we should look and 

2 5 2 


TR. V 

study the virtues that shine forth in Christ in order with 
them to adorn and beautify our soul. The glorious St. 
Francis says : ' ' One of the things most desirable in a 
Religious is the grace of prayer : without it there is no 
hope of fruit or improvement, with it everything may be 
hoped for." St. Thomas Aquinas, among other grave 
utterances related in his Life, said that a Religious without 
prayer was a soldier in battle naked and without arms. 
That holy Archbishop of Valentia, Friar Thomas of Vil- 
lanova, said that prayer was like the natural heat of the 
stomach, without which it is impossible for the natural 
life to be preserved, nor for any food to do good ; whereas 
with it everything is well digested and assimilated, the 
man is nourished, and all the members are supplied with 
virtue and strength enough to do their work. So he says, 
without prayer, the spiritual life cannot be preserved ; 
with it, it is preserved ; with it, the man revives and re- 
covers spiritual strength enough for all the works of 
obedience that he has to do, and for all the occasions and 
afflictions that may offer ; with prayer, all those things are 
digested and made light, and all converted to the profit 
of the soul. Finally, if we use prayer as we ought, we 
shall find therein a remedy for all our faults, and a means 
of preserving ourselves in virtue and religion. If per- 
chance you become careless in obedience and observance 
of rules, if you begin to grow disorderly on any point, 
if passion and evil habit begin to revive, all this will be 
at once checked and remedied, by favour of the Lord, 
when you betake yourself to prayer. And if you grow 
remiss in prayer itself and careless therein, you must cure 
and recover yourself by that same means. In prayer we 
have a universal remedy even for a falling off in prayer 
itself. Thus they make an excellent comparison who say 
that prayer is as the hand in the body, which is an instru- 
ment for all the body and even for itself, since the hand 
works for the sustenance and clothing of the whole body, 
and for all other things necessary for body and soul, and 
even for itself ; for if it is ailing, the hand waits on the 
hand ; if it is dirty, the hand washes the hand ; if it is cold, 
the hand warms the hand ; in short, the hands do every- 
thing. So it is with prayer. 


That we owe much to God for having .made so easy 
for us a thing at once so excellent and so necessary 

It will be reasonable for us to consider and ponder here 
the great and singular favour that the Lord has done us. 
Prayer being in itself a thing so high and excellent, and 
on the other hand so necessary for us, God has made it so 
easy for all that it is always in our power to take to it 
in every place and at every time. With me it rests to make 
prayer to God who giveth me life, says the prophet David 
(Ps. 41). The gates of God's mercy are never closed; 
they are wide open to all at every time and at every hour. 
We shall always find Him disengaged and desirous to do 
us good, and even soliciting us to ask. There is an ex- 
cellent reflection that is often made to this effect : if God 
were to give leave once a month only for all who would to 
go in and address Him, promising to give them an audi- 
ence willingly and to do them favours, it would be a boon 
highly valued, as it would be if a temporal king made 
a similar offer. How much more reasonable is it that we 
should value the offer and invitation that God makes us 
herein, not merely once a month, but every day and many 
times a day ! At night and at morning and at mid-day 
and in the afternoon, says the Prophet, embracing all 
times, / will tell and put before God (Ps. 54) my labours 
and miseries, in full confidence that every time and at 
whatever hour I approach Him He will hear me and do 
me favours. God is not like men, annoyed at being 
asked, because, unlike them, He is none the poorer for 
giving. A man has so much the less, by how much he 
bestows on another : he robs himself of that which he 
gives, and is the poorer for his liberality. It is for this 
reason then that men are annoyed at being asked ; and 
if they give once or twice with good will, they are tired of 
it the third time, and give nothing, or give in such a way 
that they are never asked again. God, as St. Paul says, 
is rich and liberal to all who call upon him (Rom. x. '12). 


2 54 


tr. v 

He is infinitely rich, and as He makes Himself none the 
poorer by giving, so He is not angry nor weary at people 
asking of Him, though it be every minute, and He have 
the whole world begging at His door. He is rich enough 
for all and to enrich all, without ceasing to be as rich as 
before ; and as the fund of His riches is infinite, so also 
the source of His mercy is inexhaustible, to meet the needs 
of all ; and He desires that we should beg of Him and have 
recourse to Him very frequently. It will be reasonable 
then for us to acknowledge and be grateful for so great 
a favour and benefit, and to make the best of so large and 
advantageous a license, taking care to be very assiduous 
in prayer. For, as St. Augustine says upon these words 
of the Psalmist : Blessed be our Lord, who hath not de- 
prived me of my prayer nor of his mercy (Ps. 65), we 
must believe for certain that if God withdraw not from 
us the spirit of prayer, neither will He withdraw His 
mercy. Wherefore, that His mercy may never forsake 
us, let us never leave off the exercise of prayer. 


Of two sorts of mental prayer 

Leaving apart vocal prayer, a thing so holy, and in such 
common use in the Church of God, we will for the present 
treat only of mental prayer, of which St. Paul writes : I 
will pray, sing, and cry to God in spirit and with my 
heart (1 Cor. xiv. 15). There are two sorts of mental 
prayer; one common and easy, the other very special, 
extraordinary and advanced, something received rather 
than made, according to the saying of ancient Saints well 
versed in prayer. St. Denis the Areopagite says of his 
master, Hierotheus, that erat pattens divina, that is to 
say, he rather received what God gave than did things 
for himself. There is a very great difference between 
these two sorts of prayer : the former may in some mea- 
sure be taught by words, the second we cannot so teach, 
because no words are able to express it. It is a hidden 
manna, which no man know eth but him that receiveth it 

ch. iv 


2 55 

(Apoc. ii. 17). Even the receiver cannot explain how it 
is, nor even properly understand how it is, as Gassian 
well observes, quoting to this effect what he calls a divine 
and heavenly saying of the blessed St. Antony Abbot : 
" Prayer is not perfect, so long as the monk at prayer 
is aivare of the very fact that he is praying." This high 
and exalted prayer does not leave room for the person 
to bethink himself, or reflect on what he is about, 'suffer- 
ing-,' we should say, rather than ' doing-.' It happens, 
not unfrequently, that a man has his mind so taken up 
and absorbed in some business, that he remembers not 
himself, nor where he is, nor reflects upon what he thinks, 
nor observes how he thinks. It is the same in this per- 
fect prayer, wherein man is so ravished and lost in God, 
that he thinks no more of himself, nor understands how 
this is, nor what way it goes, nor what way it comes, nor 
keeps any account of methods, preambles or points, or 
how he must now do this and now that. This is what 
happened to St. Antony himself, of, whom Cassian re- 
lates that oftentimes having set himself to prayer over- 
night, he remained in it till the next day, when, the light 
falling upon his eyes, he complained that the sun rose 
too soon to deprive him : of those lights which God in- 
teriorly communicated unto him. St. Bernard, speaking 
of this kind of prayer, says that we very seldom find it, 
and when we do, its stay is very short. Ram hora, pdrva 
mora,,; so that how long time soever it lasts, it seems to 
us all to have been done in a moment. St. Augustine, 
experiencing in himself the effects it produces : '' Lord," 
says he, " Thou leadest me on to a tenderness very un- 
usual, and a strange sweetness, such that if it were to 
go on, I know not where it would stop. " Even in this most 
special prayer and contemplation St. Bernard marks three 
degrees : the first he compares to eating, the second to 
drinking, which is easier and pleasanter than eating, be- 
cause there is no labour for the teeth : the third is inebri- 
ation. And he quotes the saying of the Spouse in the 
Canticles : Eat, my friends, and drink and be inebriated, 
my dear ones (Cant. v. 1). All this is a case of receiving 
rather than of doing. Sometimes the gardener draws 
water from his well by force of his arms ; at others, stands 



tr. v 

ing with folded arms, he sees the flood from heaven soak- 
ing the earth without his doing anything else but receiv- 
ing it and guiding it to the roots of the trees to make them 
more fruitful. So there are two kinds of prayer : the one 
is sought with industry, aided by God ; the other is found 
ready made. By the first you go toiling, and begging, 
and living on what you beg : the second sets before you 
a full table, which God has spread for you to satisfy your 
hunger, a rich and abundant table, signified by those 
words of the Spouse : The king hath led me into his cellars 
(Cant. i. 3). And again: I will gladden them in the 
house of my prayer (Isai. lvi. 7). 

This prayer is a particular gift of God, a gift which 
He bestows upon whom He pleases ; sometimes in reward 
of services done, and much mortification practised and 
suffering borne for His love ; at other times as a gracious 
gift of sheer liberality, irrespective of previous merits, as 
it is said in the Gospel : Is it not lawful for me to do what 
I please? (Matt. xx. 15). Anyhow, it is not a thing that 
we can teach. And so certain authors have been reproved 
and prohibited for having undertaken to teach what can- 
not be learnt nor taught, making a matter of art what is 
above all art, as though in their way one could infallibly 
arrive at becoming a contemplative. Gerson severely re- 
prehends this in a book he composed against Ruysbroek, 
in these words : " You have torn the flower from the 
root." As the flower, cut from the root and taken in 
hand, soon withers and loses its beauty, so these intimate 
communications of God to the soul in this high and lofty 
prayer are of such a nature that in the attempt to take 
them out of their place, and explain and share them with 
others, they lose their lustre and splendour. So do they 
act who try to explain and teach what cannot be explained 
nor understood. These anagogical acts, these transfor- 
mations of the soul, this silence, this self-annihilation, 
this immediate union, this depth of Tauler, — what is the 
use of talking of such things? If you understand them, I 
understand them not, nor know what you are talking 
about. Nay, some say, and say well, that there is this 
difference between this divine science and other sciences, 
that in other sciences, before you learn them, you must 

ch. iv 



learn their terms ; whereas in this you cannot understand 
the terms till you perfectly possess and are master of the 
science. In others, the theory precedes the practice: in 
this, the practice goes before the theory. 

I say still further, that not only we cannot express what 
this prayer is, nor teach it to others, but you must not 
seek to apply yourself to it, nor raise yourself to it, if God 
does not raise you, apply you and lift you up to it. That 

would "be great pride and presumption, and you would 

deserve to be deprived of the grace of prayer that you 
have, and be- left without any. He hath led me, says the 
Spouse, into his cellar (Cant. ii. 4). This entry which 
\Gpd gives to the soul into His privacy, and into His wine- 
cellar, to sate and inebriate her with His love, is a most 
particular gift of the Lord : the Bride did not go in by her- 
self, no, not until her Beloved took heir by the hand and 
led, 1 her in. That lifting of yourself up to the kiss of His 
mouth is not a thing that you can or ought to do, unless 
He Himself lifts you up. It would be great impertin- 
ence and audacity. Even the Bride does not dare do that, 
—she is too bashful and humble for that, — but she begs 
of her Beloved to give her this kiss : Let him kiss me with 
the kiss of his mouth ; meaning, as St. Bernard says : ' I 
cannot' of my own strength attain to such love and such 
high union and contemplation as this, unless He give it 
me. ' It is His goodness and gracious liberality that must 
raise us to this kiss of the mouth, to this so high prayer 
and contemplation, if He be pleased that we should reach 
it. It is riot a thing that we can teach, or that we can or 
ought to lay ourselves out for. 


How Holy Writ lays before us these two sorts of 

These two sorts of prayer that we have spoken of are 
marvellously set before us by the Holy Ghost in the thirty- 
ninth chapter of Ecclesiasticus. He says there of the Wise 
Man, by whom the Church understands the Just : He will 
set his heart to watch at break of day to the Lord who 
made him, and will pray in the sight of the Most High 
(Ecclus. xxxix. 6). He puts first the ordinary prayer. The 
man must rise in the morning, which is the time suited fpr 
prayer, and is often spoken of in Scripture. In the morning 
I will present myself before thee. Let me anticipate the 
dawn and cry out. Mine eyes have opened early in the 
morning unto thee, O Lord, to meditate thy words. To 
thee I watch from break of day (Pss. 5, 118, 62). The 
text says to watch, because he is going to be wide awake, 
not to sleep and meditate on a pillow. What more? He 
will set his heart, hand it over to prayer. He is not there 
in body only, while his heart is on business. That is 
what the Saints call ' sleepiness of heart.' Faintness and 
sloth of heart is a great obstacle to prayer, because it 
hinders the reverence which one should observe in dealing 
with God. And what is it that causes this reverence in 
the just? The consideration that I am in the presence 
of God and that I am about to speak to a Majesty so high : 
that makes me stand in reverence and at attention. This 
is the preparation and disposition wherewith we should 
go to prayer. 

But let us see what prayer it is that the just man makes. 
He will open his mouth in prayer, and begin by begging 
pardon for his sins (Ecclus. xxxix. 7), moving himself to 
shame and repentance for them. This is the prayer that 
we should make on our side, bewailing our sins, and 
begging God's mercy and pardon for them. We must not 
content ourselves with saying : ' I made my general con- 
fession at the beginning of my conversion, and after that 



I spent some days in bewailing and repenting of my sins. ' 
It is not right that we should forget our sins upon con- 
fessing them, but we should endeavour to keep them ever 
before our eyes, according to the saying of the Prophet : 
My sin is always before me, that is, before my eyes. On 
the words, Our, bed is strewn with flowers (Cant. i. 15), 
St. Bernard says : " Your bed, that is, your heart, is still 
malodorous, because you have not quite got rid of the 
vices and follies that you brought in from the world; and 
have you the audacity to invite the Bridegroom to come to 
it? Do you wish now to practise other exercises, high 
and exalted, of love and union with God, as if you were 
perfect?" Make it your first care to cleanse and wash 
ijVour bed well with tears. Every night I will wash my 
\ed, and moisten my couch with my tears (Ps. 6). Then 
yc*u have to adorn it with the flowers of virtues, and so 
invite the Bridegroom to come to you as he did to the 
Bride. Busy yourself with the kiss of the feet, humbling 
yourself and grieving much for your sins ; and with the 
kiss of the hands, which is offering your good works to 
God, and seeking to receive at His hands true and solid 
virtues ; and as for that third kiss of the mouth, that high 
and exalted union, leave that till such time as the Lord 
shall please to raise you to it. 

It is told of a very ancient and spiritual Father (Fr. 
Araoz) that he spent twenty years in these exercises of 
the purgative way. And are we to get tired of it at once, and 
seek to ascend to the kiss of the mouth and the exercises 
of the love of God ? We need a good foundation to raise 
so high a building. Besides many other good and profit- 
able things that there are in this exercise, of which we 
shall speak hereafter, there is this about it,- that it is a 
great remedy and efficient preservative against falling into 
sin. He who is continually abhorring sin, and making 
acts of . shame and sorrow for having offended God, is 
very far from committing sin anew. And contrariwise 
the Saints observe that the reason why some have fallen, 
who seemed to be very spiritual men and men of prayer, 
and possibly were so, is for want of this exercise, because 
they gave themselves over in such manner to other exer- 
cises and considerations, sweet and to their taste, that 



TR. V 

they forgot the exercise of self-knowledge and considera- 
tion of their sins, and so came to an unmeasured sense of 
security, not walking in such fear and reserve as they 
ought, and thereby they came to fall into what they ought 
not : they too quickly forgot their low estate, and fell from 
the height they thought to have attained. It is fitting 
then that for a long time our prayer should consist in be- 
wailing our sins, as the Wise Man says, until such time as 
the Lord takes us by the hand, and says, Friend, go up 
higher (Luke xiv. 10). 

Now let us see what this high and very special prayer 
is, which the Lord gives when He pleases. The text goes 
on : If the great God and Lord please, he will fill him with 
the spirit of understanding (Ecclus. xxxix. 8). If he 
please, because this is no hereditary right, but a gra<2e 
and mere effect of His liberality. You are at prayer, sind 
on a sudden there comes a light from heaven, like a flash 
of lightning, whereby you are set thinking, and see the 
point, and get an appreciation and high notion of what 
you never understood before. That is the gift of prayer. 
How many times have you travelled over the same ground, 
and your attention was never arrested on it as now ! He 
calls that the spirit of understanding, because nothing ap- 
pears in it but a simple apprehension, upon which the 
man becomes tranquil and at rest, with that light shed 
upon him. It happens in this world sometimes that a 
man comes across a very perfect and highly finished pic- 
ture, and he stands regarding it for a long time, with his 
eyes fixed, without moving about, wrapt in mighty ad- 
miration, so that he cannot have enough of looking at it : 
such is this prayer and high and exalted contemplation. Or 
to speak better, this is the way in which the Blessed in 
heaven see God. Heavenly bliss consists in the sight and 
contemplation of God. In it we shall be absorbed and 
penetrated through and through with the vision and love 
of God for ever and ever, with one simple vision of that 
Divine Majesty, rejoicing in His presence and in His 
glory, without any wandering of the mind, and without 
ever being weary of looking at Him ; or rather, as the 
text says, and they sang as it were a new song before the 
throne (Apoc. xiv. 3), that song and that divine manna 

cp. V 



will always be something new to us, and we shall be ever 
in new admiration. 

In this way then there is carried on here on earth this 
high and perfect prayer which is called contemplation, 
when the Lord is pleased to give it, so that the person is 
never sated or cloyed with seeing and contemplating God, 
without play of the mind hither and thither, without 
fatigue, all by one simple look. The. text says, he will 
fill him, because His grace is so copious and so abundant 
that it overflows, and cannot be contained in so narrow a 
vessel. And so the text goes on at once with the follow- 
ing : and he will pour out the words of his wisdom like s 
rain, and in prayer he will praise the Lord (Ecclus. 
ipcxix. 9). Thence immediately follow colloquies : this is 
tr\e proper time to converse with God, when the soul is 
moved, instructed and lifted up by, this heavenly light and 

And so our Father marks this time for making collo- 
quies : " when a spiritual movement comes over us, we 
will make colloquies, " Be this saying well taken note of . 
After we have helped ourselves by the use of. our reason- 
ing powers meditating and considering, — when the meditar 
tion now has inflam.ed our heart and we feel moved there- 
by,— then is the time for colloquies and treating familiarly 
with God by petitions and resolutions, because the prayer 
that cpmes from the heart now touched by God is 
the prayer that God hears, and that, leads to a happy 
settlement with His Divine Majesty. As St. Augustine 
says : when God moves one to ask, it is a sign that He 
intends to. give what is asked. This is the very special 
kind of prayer that, God gives to whom He pleases. For 
if the great Lord willeth, he will fill him with the spirit of 
understanding (Ecclus, xxxix, 8), If He wills, we shall 
easily be able to reach this high and singularly excellent 
prayer . - 

Put if the Lord is not pleased to raise us to such a high 
prayer as this, St. Bernard says we must not be afflicted 
nor discouraged,, but be content with the practice of vir- 
tues, and with the fact that the Lord keeps us ini His 
friendship and grace, and does not let us fall into sin. 
He says : " Oh that the Lord may be pleased to give me 



tr. v 

peace, goodness and joy in the Holy Ghost, mercy, sim- 
plicity and charity to my neighbour : with that I am con- 
tent. As for those other high contemplations, in Heaven's 
name, let them be kept for Apostles and great Saints." 
Utinam detur mihi pax, bonitas, gaudium in Spiritu 
Sancto, misereri in hilaritate, tribuere in simplicitate, 
gaudere cum gaudentibus , fiere cum flentibus, et his con- 
tentus ero. Cetera Sanctis Apostolis virisque Apostolicis 
relinquo. High mountains for stags, the rock the refuge 
of urchins (Ps. 103). Those high mountains of contem- 
plation are for such as run to perfection with the nimble- 
ness of stags and deer ; but I, who am an urchin, or hedge- 
hog, full of thorns and faults and sins, betake myself to 
the holes of that rock, which is Christ (1 Cor. x. 4), and 
wash away my faults and sins in the Blood that floy^s 
from them, and that shall be my prayer. 

But if the glorious Bernard was content with the prac- 
tice of the virtues, and grief and contrition for his sins, 
and left that other very special prayer to Apostolic men 
and great saints, to whom the Lord is pleased to impart 
it, it will be right for us also to be content therewith, 
and to make this our exercise in prayer, to conceive sorrow 
and shame for our sins, and attend to the mortifying of 
our passions and the rooting up of our vices, and the over- 
coming of all the repugnances and difficulties that may 
confront us in the way of virtue. As for that other very 
special and eminently high prayer, let us leave it till the 
time that the Lord shall be pleased to call and raise us 
thereto. And even then when we think that we are called 
to it, there is need of great caution and of much sober 
deliberation, for there are apt to be in this matter many 
delusions. Sometimes a man thinks that God calls him to 
this prayer, because of a certain sweetness and pleasant- 
ness and facility which he feels in the exercise of the love 
of God ; and God does not call him, but it is he himself 
that mounts up and meddles with it, the devil deceiving 
and blinding him, that he may leave what is necessary, 
and do nothing and profit nothing either one way or the 

A great Master of spirit says very well that as it would 
show little sense of propriety for a man unceremoniously 


to seat himself at the King's table without his command 
and license, whereas the King himself had commanded 
that man to assist and wait upon him ; so he does very ill 
and very rudely, who seeks to deliver himself up entirely to 
the sweet repose of contemplation, not being evidently 
called thereto by God Himself. St. Bonaventure gives a 
good admonition here, that a man should exercise him- 
self in the line that is safer and more profitable, that is, 
in the extirpation of vices and evil inclinations, and in the 
acquisition of true virtues. That is a very plain and safe 
\ road, on which there can be no delusion. The more a 
\ man busies himself with mortification, humiliation, and 
\resignation, the more he will please God, and will merit 
naore of Him than by those other exquisite and extra- 
ordinary ways, in which, St. Bonaventure goes on to say, 
there are apt to be many deceits and many illusions of the 
devil, the man taking that to be God which is not God, 
and that to be something great which is nothing. Thus 
this ought to be examined by that, and not that by this, 
which is the common doctrine of the Saints, as we shall 
see presently. 


Wherein this doctrine is further explained and 

For the greater confirmation and explanation of this 
doctrine, the Saints and Masters of spiritual life here ob- 
serve that, to arrive at this high prayer and contempla- 
tion that we spoke of, there is necessary great mortifica- 
tion of our passions, and a thorough grounding to begin 
with in the moral virtues, and much time spent in their 
exercise; otherwise they say it will be vain to pretend to 
enter upon this contemplation or make profession of it. 
It is proper, they say, to be Jacob wrestling, before being 
Israel, who sees God face to face (Gen. xxxii. 30). Oportet 
ut prius sis Jacob luctans quam Israel Deum videns (St. 
Bernard). You must first be a strong wrestler, and van- 
quish your passions and evil inclinations, before arriving 

264 OF PRAYER tr.v, 

at this intimate union with God. Blosius says that who- 
ever seeks to arrive at a very excellent degree of divine 
love, without first applying himself with great diligence 
to the correction and mortification of his vices, and the 
casting off from himself of the inordinate love of creatures, 
is like a man who, laden with lead and iron, and bound 
hand and foot, were to want to climb a very high tree. 
Wherefore they advise Masters of spirit that, before treat- 
ing with their disciples of this contemplation, they should 
first make them busy themselves with thorough mortifi- 
cation of all their passions and the formation of habits of 
virtues, — patience, humility, obedience,— ^and long exer- 
cise in the practice thereof. They call this the ' active 
life, ' which should go before the ' contemplative. ' Failing' 
to observe that, many who have not proceeded by the^e 
steps, but have sought to rise to contemplation without 
due order, are found after many years of prayer very 
devoid of virtue, impatient, passionate, proud, so that, 
once you touch them on the sore point they burst out into 
unmeasured words of impatience, clearly showing how far 
they are from perfection and mortification. 

Our Father General Everard Mercurian declared this 
very well in a letter that he wrote on this matter in these 
words. " There are many who, rather from lack of dis- 
cretion than from desire of improvement, hearing 
tell of another and that a higher practice of prayer, of 
love of God, of anagogical acts, and a certain indescrib- 
able silence, have sought to ascend to the practice of the 
unitive way before their time. Hearing tell of a more 
heroic and more perfect exercise, whereby virtues are 
gained and vices overcome with greater ease and pleas- 
antness, they have mounted up there before their time, and 
so have lost much time and have covered very little 
ground ; and at the end of many years they find them- 
selves with their passions as lively, with their affections 
as uncontrolled, as great lovers of their own ease, as if 
they had never dealt with nor had had any communica- 
tion with God." They are as wedded to their own will, 
as backward in submitting their judgment, when Supe- 
riors have wished to make some arrangement about them 
that did not please them, or was not to their mind, as they 


were on the first day. The reason of this is because they 
wanted to fly before they had wings. They skipped and 
scampered over the ground, and did not go by the 
measured steps that they should have taken : they did not 
first ground themselves in mortification and the practice 
of the virtues; and so without foundation they could not 
set up a good building: they built on sand, and failed 
accordingly in the hour of emergency. 

Hence, we may see how true, how common, and general 
is this doctrine :, it is what the; Saints commonly say when 
they assign three parts, or three manners of prayer, accordr 
ing to the three ways called respectively purgative, illumin- 
ative, and unitive, which is the doctrine drawn from St, 
Dionysius the Areopagite, and from him St. Gregory 
IJazianzen took it, and all. the other authors who treat of 
spiritual things. They say and all agree, in this, that 
before dealing with this so high and lofty prayer that 
belongs to the unitive way, we must occupy ourselves 
with what .belongs to the purgative and illuminative. First 
it is necessary to exercise ourselves in sorrow and repent-; 
ance for our sins, and to root out from ourselves vicious 
a.nd evil inclinations, and to acquire true virtues, imitating 
Christ in whom they shine forth ; because if we sought 
to pass on further without that, it would • be without 
foundation, and so we should always remain imperfect 
and unformed, as he who should try to pass into the class 
of the seniors without being well grounded in that of the 
juniors, and to mount the second step of a ladder without 
going on the first. 


Of ordinary mental frayer 

Leaving aside that very special and extraordinary prayer, 
since we can neither teach it nor explain what it is, nor how 
it is, nor does it depend on our will to have it, nor does 
God bid us attain it, nor will He ask us any account of it, 
we will treat now of the mental prayer which is ordinary 
and common, and can in some sort be taught and attained 
by labours and counsels with the aid of the grace of the 

Amongst the other favours and benefits that the Lord 
has done us in the Society, this is a very particular one, 
that He has given us a method of prayer to go by, ap- 
proved by the Apostolic See, in the Book of Spiritual 
Exercises of our blessed Father Ignatius, as appears by 
the Brief standing at the beginning of them, in which his 
Holiness Paul III., after having had them strictly ex- 
amined, approved and confirmed them, saying they were 
very useful and wholesome, and strongly exhorted all the 
faithful to go through the practice of them. Our Lord 
imparted to our Father this method of prayer, and he im- 
parted it to us in the same order in which our Lord im- 
parted it to him. And we must have great confidence in 
God that by this way and method, which He has given us, 
He will help us and do us favours, since with it He gained 
our Father and his companions, and after them many 
others, and therein He made known to him the method 
and plan of the Society, as he said. We must not seek 
other ways and other extraordinary methods of prayer, 
but do our best to mould ourselves upon what we have, 
like good and true sons. 

In the Exercise of the Powers, which is the first of the 
Exercises, our Father teaches us the method to be followed 
in prayer in all the rest of the Exercises. It is that in each 
point that we take in hand we must go exercising the three 
powers of our soul, memory, understanding, and will, — 
first by memory putting before the eyes of the under- 



standing the point or mystery on which we wish to make 
meditation ; and then the understanding comes in, rea- 
soning, meditating and considering the things that may 
better aid us to move our wills, and thereupon must follow 
the affections of the will. This third is the principal 
exercise in which we should dwell, since it is the end of 
the meditation, and the fruit to be drawn from all the 
considerations and reasonings of the understanding. That 
is all ordained to move the will to the desire of good and 
abhorrence of evil. On this account he gave this exercise 
the name of the Three Powers, for its being, the first 
exercise in which he teaches us this method of prayer, 
\ although in all the exercises that follow, the three powers 
\nust also be exercised as in the first. 
^ This method of prayer which our Father here teaches 
a\nd the Society practises, is not singular, nor has it any 
contrivances apt to issue in illusions, as is the case with 
sortie others. Rather it is a method very common and 
much in use among the ancient Fathers, and very con- 
formable to human nature, which is argumentative and 
rational, governed by reason, and by reason persuaded, 
convinced and brought over, which makes this method 
easier, safer and more profitable. Thus we must not be 
in prayer after the manner of persons languishing or dazed 
with light, without doing anything, which would be 
a great delusion and error, but we must cry therein to 
God by means of the exercise of our powers, and co- 
operate along with Him ; for God requires the co-opera- 
tion of His creatures, and that is what our Father teaches 
us in the Book of Exercises. Other methods there are of 
prayer by giving up reasonings, employing negations and 
certain silences, taken from Mystical Theology. These 
methdds commonly should not be taught, nor sought 
either, as we have said before. Young people, who are 
no great hands at the knowledge of their passions and 
the practice of virtues, if they are set to these particular 
methods, are liable to illusions and deceits ; and when they 
think they have gained some advantage, they find them- 
selves with their passions all vigorous and unabated, 
passions which were lulled to sleep by this food and bait 
of prayer, and now wake up and prove very dangerous. 



TR. V 

Moreover in these choice and particular methods there is 
engendered a hardness of judgment, a disposition that 
lends itself to any delusion; and so our blessed Father 
Ignatius dreaded it, saying that such people generally 
have something of that about them. 

I say then that the first thing we have to do in medita- 
tion, in whatever point we take in hand, is to put before 
us by memory the point on which we wish to meditate. 
The second is to enter on the meditation, which is to be 
done by reasoning with the understanding, considering 
and reflecting on the particular aspects of that mystery ; 
and thereupon must follow the affections of the will. Thus 
the memory proposes the subject, and forthwith the rea- 
soning and meditation of the understanding must find/ 
place, for this is the source from whence must flow all the 
acts and exercises which we make in our prayer, and 
everything else that is done in the prayer is done in virtue 
of this, The reason whereof is clear in sound philosophy ; 
for our will is a blind power, which cannot take a step with- 
out the understanding going before : nihil volitum quin 
praecognitum. This is a common maxim of philosophers : 
the will cannot will a thing that has not first passed 
through the understanding. The understanding is the link- 
boy that goes before, lighting the path of the will and guid- 
ing it, and showing it what to go for and what to shun. So 
St. Augustine: "A thing may be loved that is not seen by 
the eyes, but not a thing that is not known": invisa diligi 
possunt, incognita nequaquam. And St. Gregory : "None 
can loye what he is absolutely ignorant of." We may 
Well love things that we do not see ; but what we have no 
knowledge of at all, we cannot love : for the object of the 
will is good understood as such. We love and go after a 
thing, because we apprehend it as good and worthy of 
being loved ; and contrariwise, we abhor a thing and shun 
it, because we judge and apprehend it to be evil and worthy 
of abhorrence. So when we wish any one to change his 
mind and purpose, we try to persuade him with reasons 
and convince his understanding that what he is bent on 
doing is not fitting or good, and that the other course is 
the better and proper for him, so to lead him to abandon 
the one and embrace the other. Thus the act and reason- 


ing of the understanding is the foundation of all the other 
acts and exercises that we do in prayer, and that is why 
meditation is so necessary. 


Of the necessity of meditation 

Hugh of St. Victor says that no prayer can be perfect, 
which is not preceded or accompanied by meditation. This 
is the doctrine of St. Augustine, who says that prayer 
without meditation is lukewarm. They prove it very well, 
^.on the ground that since if one does not exercise himself in 
knowing and considering his misery and weakness, he will 
fall under delusion, and will not know how to ask in prayer 
fOr what befits him, nor with the fervour that is befitting. 
Many through not knowing and studying their faults be- 
come the prey of delusions, and presume upon themselves 
in a way that they would not presume if they did know 
themselves ; and so they treat in prayer of other things than 
those that are necessary. But if you want to know how to 
pray and ask God for what befits you, exercise yourself in 
considering your faults and miseries, and in that way you 
will know what you ought to ask; and considering and 
understanding your great need, you will ask for it with 
fervour and as you ought to ask, as does the poor needy 
man who knows and understands Well his necessity and 

St. Bernard, arguing that we are not to mount to per- 
fection by flying but by walking, says that walking and 
mounting to perfection must be done with two feet, medi- 
tation and prayer; since meditation shows what is want- 
ing to us, and prayer obtains it ; meditation shows us the 
way, and prayer carries us along it; lastly, by meditation 
we know the dangers that encompass us, and by prayer 
we. escape and are delivered from them. Hence St. Augus- 
tine comes to say that meditation is the beginning of all 
good, since whoever well considers how good God is in 
Himself, and how good and merciful He has been lo us, 
how He 'has created us, ho W much He has done and suf- 

2 7° 


TR. V 

fered for us, is at once fired with love for this good Lord ; 
and whoever knows well his faults and miseries, comes 
to humble and make little account of himself ; and whoever 
considers how badly he has served God, and how much he 
has offended Him, feels himself worthy of any penalty and 
chastisement ; and thus by meditation the soul comes to 
be enriched with all virtues. 

Therefore it is that Holy Scripture so much recom- 
mends to us meditation : Blessed is the man that medita- 
teth day and night on the law of the Lord; he shall be as 
a tree planted near stream's of water, that shall yield much 
fruit (Ps. i). Blessed are they who search his command- 
ments, and seek him with all their heart (Ps. 118). These 
are they who seek Him with all their heart, and this is what/ 
makes them seek Him. And so the Prophet asks God fq<r 
grace to keep His law. Give me understanding , and I will 
search into thy law, and keep it with all my heart (Ps. 1 18). 
And contrariwise : // it were not for the regular meditation 
that I make on thy law, perhaps by this time, I should 
have perished in my humility (Ps. 118), that is, in my 
difficulties and troubles, as St. Jerome explains. Thus 
one of the greatest praises that the Saints bestow on medi- 
tation and consideration, or even the greatest, is that it 
is a great helper to all the virtues and to all good works. 
Gerson calls it "the sister of reading, the nurse of prayer, 
the guide of action, the perfection and withal the consum- 
mation of all things." 

But because contrary comes to be better known by 
contrary, one of the principal causes of all the evils in the 
world is want of consideration, according to the saying 
of the Prophet Jeremy : With desolation is all the earth 
laid desolate, because there is none who considereth in 
the heart (Jerem. xii. n), none who stops to think atten- 
tively. The principal cause of the spiritual desolation of 
the earth, and of the multitude of sins in the world, is 
because there is hardly any one who will enter into him- 
self and stop to think and turn over in his heart the 
mysteries of God. For who would dare to commit a 
mortal sin, if he reflected that God died for sin, and that 
it is so great an evil that it was necessary for God to 
make Himself man to satisfy in all rigour of justice for it? 

CH. VU1 



Who would dare to sin, if he reflected that for one mortal 
sin God chastises in hell for ever and ever? If one set 
himself to think over and weigh well that sentence, Depart 
from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire (Matt. xxv. 41), 
—-that eternity ! that for ever and ever ! — and how so long- 
as God is God he must burn in hell, who would there be 
who, for the pleasure of a moment, would choose ever- 
lasting torments? 

St. Thomas Aquinas used to say It was a thing- he could 

not understand, how a person in mortal sin could laugh 
and make merry. And he had much reason to say so, be- 
cause the man knows for certain that, if he were to die, he 
would go to hell for ever; and he is not sure of one moment 
\of life. There was that man (Damocles) in feastings and 
fine music and rejoicings ; and all because he had over his 
hfead a naked sword, hanging only by one hair, he 
trembled every moment lest it should fall, and nothing 
gave him any pleasure. How should it be with him who 
is threatened not merely with temporal but with eternal 
death, hanging upon one little thread of life? He may 
drop down dead suddenly where he is; and going to bed 
in good health may open his eyes in hell ! A servant of 
God used to say to this effect that he thought that in a 
Christian commonwealth there ought not to be more than 
two prisons, one that of the Holy Inquisition, the other 
the lunatic asylum : for either the man believes that there 
is a hell lasting for ever for the sinner, or he does not : if 
he does not, let them take him to the Inquisition for a 
heretic; if he does believe it, and nevertheless has a rnind 
to remain in mortal sin, let them take him to the lunatic 
asylum ; for what greater lunacy can there be than that ! 
Doubtless, if any one would attentively consider these 
things, it would be a great check upon him against sin- 
ning. That is why the devil is so diligent in trying to 
keep us from this meditation and consideration. 
• The first thing the Philistines did when they caught 
Sampson was to put out his eyes ; and so it is the first 
thing that the devil contrives to do to the sinner. Now 
that he cannot get him to abandon the faith, he contrives 
that ' he shall believe as though he did not believe : he 
contrives that he shall not consider what he believes nor 

272 OF PRAYER tr.v 

dwell upon it, any more than as if he believed it not : he 
shuts his eyes, which comes to the same thing for him. 
As it is no use, says St. Augustine, to open your eyes if 
you are in the dark, since you will see nothing ; so it is 
ho use to be in the light if you keep your eyes shut, 
since you will see nothing that way either. This is why 
meditation and mental prayer is of such importance, — it 
makes you open your eyes. 


Of one good result and great advantage that we should 
draw from meditation, and of the method to adopt iiv 
order to profit thereby 

It is well to exercise ourselves in meditation in affec- 
tions and desires of the will; of this we shall treat pre- 
sently ; but it is necessary that these affections and desires 
be well founded on reason, because man is rational, and 
requires^ to be swayed by reason and by way of understand- 
ing, Thus one of the principal objects to which medita- 
tion should be ordered and directed is, that we may be 
finally disabused and well informed as regards facts, and 
quite convinced and resolved in point of what it is right 
for us to do. They are wont to say here, when one is 
brought back to a good and well-ordered life : ' this man 
is disabused.' This disabusing should be one of the 
principal fruits that we ought to endeavour to gather from 
meditation. This fact should be carefully noted, since it 
is primary in this matter. It is at one's commencements 
above all that one needs to exercise oneself more particu- 
larly in this, in order to be well grounded in and thoroughly 
convinced of these truths. 

That we may be better able to gather this result from 
meditation, and that it may be very fruitful, it is needful 
that it be not done superficially, nor at a gallop, nor in a 
dead-alive and feeble manner, but with much attention and 
tranquil consideration. You have to "meditate and con- 
sider in a very leisurely way and great quiet of mind, the 
shortness of life and the frailty and vanity of the things of 



the world, and how death is the end of all, that thus you 
may come to despise all things here below and put your 
whole heart in what must last for ever. You have to 
consider and ponder many times over how vain is the 
esteem and opinion of men, that makes such war upon us, 
since it takes nothing from you and adds nothing to you, 
nor can it make you either better or worse than you are, 
that thus you may come to despise it and not make any 
account of it, and so of the rest. In this way a man 
gradually rids himself of illusions, convinces himself, and 
makes Up his mind to do what for him is the right thing, 
and all this goes to make a spiritual man of him. He 
shall sit in solitude and be silent, because he hath raised 
himself above himself (Lam. iii. 28). He is getting a 
courageous heart, a despiser of all the things of the world, 
and is coming to say with St. Paul : What I counted gain 
before, I now count as loss, something absolutely to cast 
out, that I may gain Christ (Phil. iii. 7, 8). 

There is a great difference between meditating and 
meditating, and between knowing and knowing. A 
learned man knows a thing in one way, a simple and ignor- 
ant in another : the learned man knows how the thing is 
in truth, but the simple man knows only the outward 
appearance. Thus if a simple person finds a precious 
stone, he covets it for its lustre and outward beauty, and 
for nothing else, because he does not know its value ; but 
a skilful jeweller, finding such a stone, covets it much, 
not for its lustre and outward beauty, but because he 
knows well the value and virtue thereof. This is the 
difference there is between him who knows how to medi- 
tate and consider divine mysteries and spiritual things, 
and him who has no such knowledge : the latter takes a 
superficial and outside view of things ; and though they 
make a good impression on him by the lustre and radiance 
that he Sees in them, he is not much moved to desire them ; 
but he who knows how to meditate and ponder these 
things, clears his mind of illusions and makes firm resolves. 
Knowing well the value of the hidden treasure and of the 
precious pearl which he has found, he despises all else 
and makes little account of it in comparison. He went 
and sold all he had and bought it (Matt. xiii. 46). 

2 74 


TR. V 

This difference is declared to us by Christ our Redeemer 
in the gospel, in the story of that woman who suffered 
from a flux of blood. The holy evangelists relate how the 
world's Redeemer was on His way to heal and raise up 
the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue, and such a 
crowd of people went with Him that they pressed on 
Him, when a woman caught sight of Him that had been 
suffering from a flux of blood now for twelve years. She 
had spent all her money on doctors, and they had been 
u.nable to cure her, rather she found herself worse than 
before. With the desire that she had to gain her health, 
she breaks through the crowd of people with great faith 
and confidence : for she said within herself, If I touch but 
the hem and edge of his garment, I shall be healed (Matt, 
ix. 21). She goes up and touches, and at once the running 
flow of blood dries up and stops. Christ our Redeemer 
turns round and says : Who hath touched me? St. Peter 
says to him, and the other disciples : Master, 'so many 
people are pressing on thee, and say est thou, who hath 
touched me? I do not mean that, says Christ, but some 
one hath touched me, not in the manner of the rest of 
people, but in a particular manner, because I feel that 
virtue hath gone out from me (Luke viii. 45, 46). There is 
the point, that it is to touch Christ, and this it is that He 
asked about ; for as for that other indiscriminate touching, 
as the populace and the rest of the folk touched Him, no 
account is to be taken of it. 

This then is all the business of meditation, to touch 
Christ and His mysteries in such sort as to feel in our- 
selves the virtue and fruit thereof. To this end it is of 
great importance that we go about our meditation with 
great attention, ruminating and breaking up things in 
very leisurely fashion. That which we do not chew is 
neither bitter nor savoury : that is why a sick man swal- 
lows his pill whole, that he may not taste the bitterness. 
For the same reason neither does the sinner taste the 
bitterness of sin, or death, or judgment, or hell, because 
he swallows them whole, taking them at a gulp and all 
in one volley. For the same reason neither do you taste 
or relish the mystery of the Incarnation and Passion and 
Resurrection, and the other benefits of God, because you 


do not break them up, nor ruminate them, nor ponder 
them as you ought. Do you chew and break up the grain 
of mustard-seed or pepper, and you will see how it burns 
and draws tears from the eyes. 


Of other good things and advantages that there are 
in meditation 

Another good thing and great advantage, says St. 
Thomas, that there is in meditation, is that from it there 
springs true devotion, a thing so important in spiritual 
life, and so desired by all who journey that way. Devo- 
tion is nothing else than a promptitude and readiness of 
will for all that is good; and thus the truly devout man is 
he who is prompt and disposed for all good : such is the 
common doctrine of the Saints. Now St. Thomas says 
there are two causes of this devotion, the one extrinsic and 
principal, which is God ; the other intrinsic on our part, 
which is meditation ; for this promptness and readiness 
of the will for the things of virtue arises from the con- 
sideration and meditation of the understanding, the 
understanding being that which, after the grace of God, 
starts and kindles this fire in our heart. Thus true devo- 
tion and, fervour of spirit does not consist in the sensible 
sweetness and relish which some experience in prayer, 
but in keeping a will prompt and disposed for all points 
of the service of God. This is the devotion that lasts 
and endures; that other soon comes to an end, con- 
sisting as it does of sensible affections, prompted by 
a sudden desire of something attractive and lovable, and 
being often the result of natural constitution, a soft and 
affectionate character and an impressionable heart. Such 
a one is quickly moved to sentiment and tears ; and when 
this devotion is run out, the good purposes often dry up 
also. This is a sentimental love, founded on tastes and 
consolations : while the taste and consolation lasts, this 
person will be very diligent and punctual, a lover of silence 
and recollection; and when the wind ceases, all is over. 



tr. v 

But take those that are founded on truth by means of 
meditation and consideration, convinced and disabused by 
reason,— these are they that persevere and hold out in 
virtue ; and even when sweetnesses and consolations fail 
them, they are still the same as before, because the cause 
endures, that is, the reason that convinced and moved 
them. This is a strong and manly love, and in it, not in 
sweetnesses and consolations, are seen the true servants 
of God and they who have made real progress. It is often 
said that our passions are like little dogs that go on 
barking, and in time of consolation have their mouths 
stopped : God throws to each of them his morsel of bread, 
which keeps them quiet, and they ask for nothing; but 
when this bread of consolation is gone, this and that and 
the other one starts barking, and there you see what each 
man is good for. They likewise compare these tastes and 
consolations to articles of personal property that are soon 
Worn out, and solid virtue to landed property that is lasting 
and permanent, and therefore more valuable. 
' Hence arises a thing that we often experience, and is 
worthy of consideration. We see some persons on the 
one hand who have great consolations in prayer, and after- 
wards in occasions and temptations we see them weak 
and even falling ; and on the other hand we see others who 
suffer great aridities in prayer, and know not what con- 
solation or sensible sweetness is, and yet we see them 
very strong under temptation and far from falling. The 
cause is that which we have been saying, that the former 
Were founded on tastes and feelings, while the latter are 
founded on reason, and so remain free from illusions, con- 
vinced and firm set in truth, and thereby continue and 
persevere in what once they have been persuaded of and 
resolved upon. And so one of the methods that are 
usually prescribed, and a very good one, to persevere in 
the good resolutions made in prayer and put them in exe- 
cution, is to try to keep in mind the motive that then 
caused in us that good resolution and desire, because what 
then moved us to desire it will afterwards help us to keep 
and carry it out. And there is even more in it, and it is 
this, that by going about to undeceive and convince one- 
self in this way, even if one afterwards forgets the particu- 


lar motive and reason that then moved one, nevertheless in 
virtue of that reaction against error, and the resolution 
then taken under conviction of truth and of reason, the 
man stands firm and strong enough afterwards to resist 
temptation and persevere in virtue. 

Gerson set such store by meditation that, being asked 
what exercise was most useful and profitable for a Reli- 
gious recollected in his cell, reading or vocal prayer, or 

manual labour, or application to meditation, be said that, 

saving obedience, the best would be application to medita- 
tion. And he gives this reason, that though in vocal prayer 
and spiritual reading one may possibly feel for the time 
greater devotion and profit than in meditation, yet leaving 
off the book you were reading before, or in Ceas- 
ing your vocal exercise, your devotion also is apt 
to come to an end. But meditation improves a man and 
disposes him better for what is to come ; and therefore 
he says that we must accustom ourselves to meditation, 
so that though books fail, meditation may be our book, 
and thus true devotion may not fail. 


Of the conduct to be held in meditation, and the fruit 
to be gathered from it 

My heart hath grown warm within me, and in my medi- 
tation fire shall be enkindled (Ps. 38). In these words the 
prophet David, according to the explanation of many 
doctors and Saints, points out the method we should ob- 
serve in prayer. They explain this passage of the fire of 
charity and love of God and our neighbour, which the 
meditation of heavenly things lit and made to burn in the 
breast of the Royal Prophet. My heart, he says, grew 
hot and glowed there within me.. This is the eifect 
of prayer. But how did this heat gather? how came it 
to be kindled .there within him? Do you know how ? By 
meditation. And in my meditation this fire shall be en- 
kindled. This is the means and instrument to enkindle 
this fire. Thus, says St. Cyril of Alexandria, meditation 
is like the strokes of the steel on the flint to make fire 



TR. V 

come forth. By the exercise and meditation of the under- 
standing you must strike blows on the hard flint of your 
heart until the flame bursts forth of love of God and 
desire of humility and mortification and the other virtues, 
and you must not stop until you have drawn forth and 
enkindled in it this fire. 

Although meditation is very good and necessary, yet 
all our prayer must not be let go in reasonings and con- 
siderations of the understanding, nor must we stop there, 
for that would be rather a study than a prayer ; but all 
the meditations and considerations that we make we must 
take as means to awaken and kindle in our heart affections 
and desires of virtues. For the goodness and holiness of 
Christian and Religious life does not consist in good 
thoughts and understanding of holy things, but in solid 
arid true virtues, and especially in the acts and operations 
thereof, such activity being, according to St. Thomas, the 
last perfection of virtue. Thus it is on this that we 
should principally dwell and occupy ourselves at prayer. 
This we must take for a first principle in this matter. 
Even the philosopher there in heathendom said it, and 
Gerson quotes him : ' ' We go enquiring and investigating 
what manner of thing virtue is, not for the knowledge, 
but to be good and virtuous men." Though a needle be 
necessary to sew, yet it is not the needle that sews, but 
the thread ; he would be very silly who spent the whole 
day in putting in and drawing put a needle without thread, 
because that would be labour in vain, yet that is what 
they do, whose prayer is all understanding and meditating, 
with little of loving. Meditation should be as the needle, 
which goes in first, but only goes in that through it there 
may go in the thread of love and affection of the will, 
wherewith we are to unite and conjoin ourselves to God. 

Our Father warns us of this point much in particular, 
and repeats it to us many times in the book of the Spiritual 
Exercises. After having set down the points which we 
are to meditate, with some brief reflections, he says there- 
upon, " and refer all this to myself to draw some fruit. " 
In this lies the fruit of prayer, in each one knowing how 
to apply to himself and to his own improvement what he 
meditates, according to his wants. The glorious Bernard 


says well : ' 'As the sun does not warm all to whom it gives 
light, so knowledge and meditation, though it teaches us 
what we have to do, does not move and stir the wills of 
all to do what it teaches." It is one thing to have know- 
ledge of great wealth, and another thing to possess it ; so 
he says it is one thing to know God, and another thing to 
fear and love God : it is not the knowing many things of 
God that makes us truly wise and rich, but the fearing and 
loving of God. He brings in also another g-ood com- 
parison to this effect : as a hungry man would benefit little 
by having set before him a table plentifully laid with ex- 
quisite dishes, if he did not eat of them, so it will little 
profit him who practises prayer to have before him a rich 
and splendid board of many excellent considerations, if 
he does not eat thereof, applying them to himself by his 
will so as to make profit out of them. 

Descending herein more into particulars, I say that 
What we ought to draw from meditation and prayer should 
be holy affections and desires, formed first interiorly in the 
heart, that afterwards in due time they may come out in 
action. The' blessed St. Ambrose says that the end of 
meditation is action. Of those holy and mysterious living 
creatures whom the prophet Ezechiel saw, he says among 
other particulars that they had wings, and under the. 
wings the hands of a man, to give us to understand 
that the flight and play of the understanding should be 
subservient to action. We ought then to draw from 
prayer affections and desires of humility, disparaging 
ourselves and desiring to be disparaged by others, — -desires 
of suffering pains and labours for the love of God, and 
rejoicing in those that at present fall to our lot, — affections 
of poverty of spirit, desiring that the worst of the house be 
for us, and that something may be wanting to us even of 
necessaries, — grief and contrition for our sins, and firm 
purposes rather to fall asunder than sin, — thanksgiving 
for favours received, — true resignation into the hands of 
God, — and finally desire to imitate Christ our Redeemer 
and Master in all the virtues that shine forth in Him. To 
this our meditation should be directed and ordained, and 
this is the fruit that we should draw from it. 

Hence it follows that since meditation and the exercise 



TR. V 

of the understanding is taken up as a means to move the 
will to these affections, and this is the end and purpose of 
the whole business, we ought to use meditation and the 
exercise of the understanding so far as is necessary to 
this end and no further, since the means should be pro^ 
portionate and commensurate with the end. Thus when 
we feel our will excited and moved to desire of some 
virtue, as to sorrow for sin, contempt of the world, love 
of God, desire of suffering for His sake, or the like, we 
should at once cut short the thread of the activity of the 
understanding, — even as a mason removes the wooden 
scaffolding of arches and bridges when the masonry is 
set,- — and stop and dwell on this affection of the will till 
we are satisfied and have drunk it well into our soul. This 
is a very important direction, and our Father puts it in the 
book of Exercises, where he says that on the point where- 
on we find the devotion and feeling that we desire we 
should there stop and occupy ourselves upon it, without 
anxiety to pass to anything else until we are quite satis- 
fied. As a gardener watering a seed-plot, when the water 
begins to work its way into the earth stops the flow of the 
stream and lets the water thoroughly soak and be drunk 
in by the bowels of the dry earth, and passes not on till 
it is well soaked and irrigated ; so when the water of good 
affections and desires begins to enter into our soul (which 
is as earth without water, as the prophet says, My soul, 
O Lord, is as earth without water before thee, Ps. 142) 
we should stop the flow of reasoning of the understanding, 
and enjoy this irrigation and affection of the will as long 
as we can, until the whole heart is saturated and soaked, 
and we can rest satisfied. 

The Blessed St. Chrysostom brings another comparison 
pat to our purpose. Have you not seen, he says, when 
a lambkin goes to suck the breasts of its mother, it does 
nothing but turn now here now there, and now sucks at 
the teat and then at once quits it; but when the milk 
begins to flow, it immediately holds fast and quietly enjoys 
it? So in prayer, before the dew descends from heaven, 
man goes discoursing and reasoning from one point to 
another ; but when the heavenly dew comes, we must at 
once stop and taste that sweetness and delight. 


How important it is to dwell on the acts and affections 
of the will 

It is so important to dwell and rest on the acts and 
affections of the will, and the Saints and Masters of 
spiritual life attach such value to this, that they say that 
this it is that, makes a good and perfect prayer, and even 
what they call ' contemplation,' when the man no longer 
seeks incentives to love by meditation, but rejoices in love 
found and desired, and rests in it as in the term. of his 
search and desire, saying with the Spouse in the Canticles, 
J have found him. whom my soul loveth, I have held him 
arid will not let him go (Cant. iii. 4). And this is what 
there the same Spouse says: I sleep, but my heart 
watcheth (Cant. v. 2) ; because in perfect prayer the under- 
standing is as it were asleep, haying given over reasoning 
and speculation, and the will is watching, and melting 
away in love of the Spouse. And so pleased is the Bride- 
groom with this sleep of his Spouse, that he gives orders 
that they are not to awaken her until she wishes. J adjure 
you, daughters of - Jerusalem, by the she-goats of the moun- 
tains and by the stags of the plains, that ye awaken not 
nor bring back to consciousness my beloved until she 
herself will (Cant. iii. 5). Thus meditation, and all the 
other parts of prayer which they assign, are ordained and 
directed to this contemplation, and are as it were steps 
whereby we are to mount to it. 

So says St. Augustine in the book that he calls the 
Ladder of. Paradise : " Reading seeks, meditation finds, 
prayer petitions, but contemplation relishes and enjoys 
what it has sought and asked for and found. Lectio in- 
quirit, meditatio invenit, oratio postulat, contemplatio 
degustat. And he quotes the saying of the gospel : Seek 
and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you 
(Matt. vii. 7); St. Augustine says: ''Seek by reading, 
and you shall find by meditation : cry out by prayer, and 
it shall be opened to you by contemplation."- And so 




tr. v 

the Saints remark, and Albertus Magnus quotes it, that this 
is the difference between the contemplation of faithful 
Catholics and that of heathen philosophers, that the con- 
templation of philosophers is wholly directed to the per- 
fection of the understanding by the knowledge of 
known truths, and so stops at the understanding, 
because that is its end to know and understand more 
and more ; but the contemplation of Catholics and Saints 
of which we now treat, does not stop at the understand- 
ing, but passes on to refresh and move the will, and in- 
flame and kindle it to the love of God, according to the 
saying of the Spouse : My soul melted away when my be- 
loved spoke (Cant. v. 6). And St. Thomas has noted this 
well in treating of contemplation : he says that though 
contemplation essentially lies in the understanding, yet 
its ultimate perfection is in the love and affection of the 
will. Thus the chief aim and end of our contemplation 
should be the affection of the will and the love of God. 

Thus, says St. Augustine, Christ our Redeemer taught 
us in the gospel, when He said : When ye pray, do not 
speak much (Matt. vi. 7). St. Augustine says that it is one 
thing to speak much, and reason and conceive many things 
with the understanding, and another thing to dwell long 
on love and affections of the will. The first is a thing that 
we must try to avoid in prayer, consisting as it does 
of much speech and talk, whereas this business of prayer, 
says the Saint, is not a business of many words. We do 
not deal with God in prayer by rhetoric, or by abundant 
discourses and quips and conceits of happy thoughts and 
reasonings, but by tears and sighs coming from the heart, 
according to what prophet Jeremy says : Let not the 
pupil of thine eye be silent (Lam. ii. 18). St. Jerome 
says hereon: "It is the tongue that speaks; how can 
the pupils of the eyes speak?" He replies : " When we 
shed tears before God, it is then that the pupils of our 
eyes utter cries to God." Though we do not speak with 
the tongue, we can cry to God with the heart, as St. 
Paul says : God! hath sent the Spirit of his Son in your 
hearts, crying, Abba, Father (Gal. iv. 6). And in' Exodus 
(xiv. 15) God said to Moses : Why dost thou cry to me? 
Moses had not spoken a word, but in his heart he was 

CH. Xlli 


praying- with such fervour and efficacy that God said to 
him, Why dost thou utter the these cries? In this way 
we ought to utter cries to God in prayer, with our eyes 
(Let not the pupil of thine eye be silent) with tears and 
groans and sighs and desires of the heart. 


Satisfying the complaint of those who say they are 
unable, and have no idea how, to meditate and reason 
with the understanding 

Herein lies the answer to a complaint very common 
with some, who make themselves miserable, saying that 
they have no ability nor any idea how to reason with them- 
selves in prayer ; no considerations occur to them whereby 
to enlarge and extend the points of meditation, but their 
thread comes to an end at once. No reason for them to 
afflict themselves on that account ; for, as we have said, 
this business of prayer consists rather in desires and affec- 
tions of the will than in reasonings and speculations of 
the understanding. Nay the Masters of spiritual life ob- 
serve that it is necessary to take care not to let the medi- 
tation of the understanding run to excess, for that would 
much impede the motion and affection of the will, which is 
the main thing, — 1 and the impediment is greater, the more 
subtle and refined are the considerations on which one 
dwells. And naturally so, for in a reservoir containing 
only a certain measure of water, with many outlets, the 
more runs by one outlet, the less will run by another. Now 
the soul's power is finite and limited; and the more is 
drained off by the outlet of the understanding, the less 
runs by that of the will. Thus we see by experience that 
when the soul is full of devotional feeling, and then the 
understanding strays into some speculation or curiosity, 
the heart at once dries up and the devotion stops: 
the reservoir has been dried up by that other outlet of the 
understanding, and so the outlet of the will is dry. 

So Gerson says that hence it comes that oftentimes and 
very often the unlearned are the more devout, and prayer 



TR. V 

goes better with them than with the learned, because they 
are less run away with by the understanding : they do not 
occupy nor distract themselves with speculations and 
curiosities, but proceed at once by plain and simple con- 
siderations to stimulate and move the will to affection : 
these humble and homely considerations have more effect 
on them than those high and dainty thoughts have on the 
others. We see this in that saintly cook of whom we 
spoke above (tr. 3, ch. 9), who from the material fire that 
he dealt with took occasion to remember everlasting fire, 
and that so devoutly as to keep the gift of tears in the 
midst of his occupations. 

And this is to be well taken notice of, that provided the 
affection and desire be very high and very spiritual, it does 
not matter about the thought and consideration being 
lowly and common. We have many examples of this in 
Holy Writ, where the Holy Ghost conveys to us very high 
and lofty matter in the guise of very plain and common 
comparisons. On the text : Who will give me the wings 
of a dove, that I may fly and rest? (Ps. 54) St. Ambrose 
asks why the prophet, desiring to fly and mount on high, 
asks for the wings of a dove, and not of other birds, since 
there are many better flyers than the dove. He answers, it 
is because this prophet knew very well that the wings of a 
dove are better apt to fly high in perfection, and sustain 
a good flight in prayer ; that is to say, the simple of heart 
pray better than people of acute and subtle understand- 
ing; as the text has it, His dealing is with the simple 
(Prov. iii. 32). God communicates Himself to the simple 
and humble of heart. 

Hence there is no reason why a person should be sad 
or torment himself because he cannot reason or find con- 
siderations wherewith to enlarge upon the points of the 
meditation. Nay, they tell us, and very reasonably, that 
they are better off, to whom God closes the vein of soar- 
ing speculation, and opens the vein of affection, in order 
that, with the understanding tranquillised and quiet, the 
will may repose in God alone, occupying herself wholly 
in loving and delighting in the Sovereign Good. If God 
does you the favour that, from some plain and simple 
consideration, as that God became man, that He was 

ch. xiii 



born in a stable, that He laid Himself on the Cross for 
you, you are inflamed with the love of God, and with 
desire to be humbled and mortified for that love, and you 
keep to that for the whole hour and many hours, that is 
a more precious prayer than if you attained to many rea- 
sonings and many high arid dainty reflections; because 
you have been occupied in the better and more substantial 
part of prayer, and that which is the end and fruit of it all. 
Hence will be understood the mistake of those who, when 
no reflections occur on which they can rest, think they 
are not making a good prayer ; and that they are making 
a good prayer when many such reflections occur. 

In the Chronicles of St. Francis, it is related that one 
day, holy Brother Giles said to St. Bonaventure, who was 
Minister General of the Order : " Many thanks to the 
Lord do you Doctors owe, that you can serve and praise 
Him; but we ignorant and unlettered people, who have 
no competence, what can we dp to please God?" St. 
Bonaventure answered : " If our Lord gave' no other 
grace to a man but that of being able to love Him, that 
would be enough for him to do God greater service than 
all other graces put together. ' ' Brother Giles said : 
" And can an unlettered man love our Lord Jesus Christ 
as much as a Doctor?" " One little simple old woman/' 
said St.. Bonaventure, " can love our Lord more than a 
Master in Theology." Brother Giles at once got up in 
a great heat, and betook himself to the part of the garden 
that was nearest to the city, and there with loud cries 
called out : " Poor little old woman, unlettered and simple, 
only love our Lord Jesus Christ, and you may be greater 
than Brother Bonaventura ! " Thereupon he fell into 
ecstasy, as was his wont, and remained rooted to the 
spot for three hours. 


Two pieces of advice calculated to aid us much 
in making our meditation well and drawing fruit 

To make meditation well and draw the due fruit from 
it, it will aid us much, in the first place, to understand 
as the first principle upon which we proceed, that medita- 
tion is not an end, but a means taken towards our ad- 
vancement and perfection. Thus we ought not to stop 
at meditation as at a terminus and final end : our perfec- 
tion consists not in the enjoyment of great consolation and 
great sweetness and contemplation, but in attaining to a 
perfect mortification and victory over ourselves and our 
passions and appetites, bringing them back, so far as is 
possible, to that blessed state of original justice in which 
we were created, when flesh and appetite were altogether 
subject and conformable to reason, and reason to God : 
the meditation we make should be a means to arrive at 

As the iron in the forge becomes soft with fire, so that 
they can work it, bend it, do what they will with it ; so 
it should be in meditation. If we find mortification and 
the breaking-in of our own will very hard and difficult, we 
must have recourse to the forge of meditation, and there 
with the heat and fire of devotion, and the example of 
Christ, soften our heart that we may be able to work it 
and mould it to all that is necessary for the greater ser- 
vice of God. This is the function of meditation, and this 
the fruit that we ought to gather therefrom ; and therefore 
the sweetnesses and consolations which the Lord is wont 
to give therein are not for us to rest in them, but to make 
us run more readily and nimbly in the way of virtue and 

This the Holy Ghost would give us to understand by 
what happened to Moses, descending from the mountain 
where he had conversed with God. The sacred text 
says that, coming from thence, his face was resplendent 
with the rays of light, and this light took the shape of 


CH. xiv 



horns, in which the strength of animals is wont to dwell, 
showing us that we ought to gather from prayer strength 
and vigour for well-doing. Christ our Redeemer taught 
us the same thing by His example on the night before 
His Passion, putting Himself in prayer, once, twice and 
thrice, to prepare Himself for the suffering that was now 
so near, not that He had need of it, as St. Ambrose ob- 
serves* but to give us an example. The holy gospel 

(Luke xxn. 43) says that there appeared to Him there an 

angel comforting Him, and He came forth from His 
prayer so comforted that He said to His disciples : A rise, 
let us go to meet our enemies, for now he draws nigh who 
is to betray me (Matt. xxvi. 46). And He Himself offers 
and gives, Himself up into their hands : He was offered, 
because himself willed it (Isai. Jiii. 7). All this to teach 
us that we ought to take prayer as a remedy to overcome 
the difficulties that meet us on the way of virtue. 

St. Chrysostom says that prayer is an attuning of the 
lyre of our heart to make sweet music to God. Thus 
we go to meditation to tune our heart, to bring to harmony 
the chords of our passions and affections and all our 
actions, that all may accord with reason and with God. 
This is what every day we say or hear said in spiritual 
conferences and exhortations, that our meditation should 
be a practical meditation, that is to say, directed to action, 
since it has to serve to smooth down the difficulties and 
overcome the repugnances that present themselves in the 
way of the spirit. Therefore the Holy Ghost calls it pru- 
dence : the science of the saints is prudence (Prov. ix. 10) .: 
because, prudence is directed to action, differing from the 
science of the learned, which is only to know. Thus the 
Saints say that prayer is a general and most efficacious 
remedy for all our temptations, and for all sorts of neces- 
sities and occasions that may come in our way; and one 
of the principal praises of prayer is this. 

Theodoret, in his Religious History, tells of a holy 
monk, who was wont to say that physicians ordinarily 
treat each corporal disease with a particular and proper 
remedy, and frequently apply many remedies to the cure 
of one disease, because all remedies fall short, and have 
only a limited virtue in them ; but prayer is a universal 



TR. V 

remedy, and is very efficacious in all our necessities, to 
repel and resist the attacks of the devil and to gain all 
sorts of virtues ; because it applies to the soul an infinite 
good, which is God Himself, on whom it rests for sup- 
port. They also call prayer omnipotent : prayer alone, 
they say, can do all things. And Christ our Redeemer 
gives us this remedy of prayer against all temptations. 
Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation 
(Matt. xxvi. 41). 

The second advice is that, before we put ourselves in 
meditation, we should have fixed beforehand the points 
upon which we are to meditate, as also the fruit we are 
to gather therefrom. But some may say, how shall we 
know beforehand what fruit to draw from the medita- 
tion we are about to make? Please tell us that. Cer- 
tainly I will. Have I not just now said, that when we 
have recourse to meditation, it is to find out a remedy for 
our spiritual infirmities, and to gain the victory over our- 
selves, over our passions and bad habits ; and that 
meditation is a means whereby we help ourselves for the 
amendment and reformation of our lives? This being So, 
we must consider for some time before we begin our medi- 
tation and ask ourselves, what is the greatest spiritual 
necessity I have ? What is it that most hinders my pro- 
gress in virtue, and makes most war on my soul? This 
is what I must bring, ready thought of and before my 
eyes, to insist on it and draw from meditation a remedy 
for it. Let Us take an example : I feel in myself a great 
inclination to be held in honour and esteem, and to have 
much notice taken of me; considerations of what men 
will think about me take a great hold of me ; and when 
occasion offers of my being made small account of, I am 
troubled and feel it much, and haply sometimes I show 
it. This, I think, it is that makes most war upon me, 
hinders my advancement and the peace and tranquillity 
of my soul, and makes me fall into my greatest faults. 
This then being your greatest need, your cure consists in 
overcoming and rooting this tendency out, and that is 
what you should bring ready prepared, and keep before 
your eyes, and take it to heart, to gather this good from 
your meditation. 


•Thus it is a mistake to make a practice of going to 
meditation to take what luck you find, and pick up there 
anything that offers, like a sportsman who fires at random 
to hit where he may hit and let come of it what will come, 
— leaving what is most necessary. The sick man who 
goes to the dispensary does not take the first drug that 
comes to hand, but what he needs for his ailment. Here 
is a man full of pride even to his very guts; another of 

impatience, another of self-opinionatedness and self-will, 

as is clearly seen whenever occasion offers, — in fact he is 
taken red-handed in the fault every day, — and the fellow 
goes to meditation to pick flowers and quips and conceits, 
laying hold of the first that comes and is most to his taste, 
picking now this and now that. That is not the way to 
get on. One should always take account of one's greatest 
need, and contrive something to meet that, since it is for 
that that one goes to meditation. 

St. Ephrem alleges to this purpose the example of the 
blind man in the gospel, who approached Christ with loud 
cries that He would have mercy on him. Christ asked 
him what it was that he would have Him do for him. He 
at once represented his greatest necessity, and that which 
gave him most trouble, which was his loss of sight, and 
asked for a remedy for that. Lord, that I may see (Luke 
xviii. 41). Do you think that he asked for any other of 
those things of which in good sooth he stood in need? Do 
you think he said : ' Lord, give me a garment, because I 
am poor ' ? He does not ask for that, but, leaving all 
the rest aside, he comes to his greatest necessity. So 
then, says the Saint, we should do in prayer : we should 
come to our greatest necessity, and insist and persevere 
in that until we get what we want. That there may be 
no excuse or demur in this matter, it is well to observe 
one thing. It is true that when he who goes to meditation 
seeks to draw forth affections of the particular virtue that 
is most wanting to him, he must take care that the 
points and matter which he takes to meditate be suitable 
and proportionate to the end of moving the will more 
readily, more firmly and fervently, to those affections, and 
to the easier gathering of the fruit desired. Yet it is also 
needful for us to understand that any exercise or mystery 
r 9 



TR. V 

that we meditate may be applied to that necessary purpose. 
Prayer is like the manna from heaven, in which every one 
found the flavour that he desired : if you desire the flavour 
of humility, the consideration of your sins, of the death and 
Passion of Christ, and of the benefits you have received 
from God, will yield that flavour : if you desire grief and 
shame for your sins, any of those subjects will yield that 
flavour; if you desire patience, you will find that flavour 
also, and so of the rest. 


How it is to be understood that in meditation 
we should take to heart one thing, that of which we 
have greatest need, and insist thereon until we get it 

We do not mean by this to say that we should always 
have our mind fixed on one thing in meditation. Though 
humility, or something of that sort, be our greatest need, 
still we may well occupy ourselves at meditation in the 
acts and exercise of the other virtues. There strikes you 
an act of conformity to the will of God for whatever He 
shall wish and arrange to make of you : dwell on that as 
long as you can, it will be a very good prayer and time 
well spent, and will not blunt your lance for humility, 
but rather sharpen it. There strikes you an act of grati- 
tude and hearty recognition of all the benefits you have 
received from God, as well general as particular : dwell 
on that as long as you can, it is very reasonable every day 
to return God thanks for benefits received, and especially 
for that of our having been brought into Religion. There 
strikes you a great horror and sorrow for your sins, and 
a firm purpose to die a thousand deaths rather than offend 
God : dwell thereon, for it is one of the best and most 
profitable acts you could make in prayer. There strikes 
you a great love of God, a great zeal and desire for the 
salvation of souls, and of offering yourself to any labour 
whatever for their sake. Dwell thereon. We may also 
dwell on asking favours of God as well for ourselves as 
for our nearest and dearest, and for the whole Church, 




which is a part and a very principal part of prayer. On 
all these things and the like we may dwell at 
prayer, and it will be a very good prayer. Thus 
the Psalms, which are a very perfect prayer, we see are 
full of an infinity of different affections. Therefore Cassian 
said, and the Abbot Nilus, that prayer is a field full of 
flowers, or as a wreath woven of many various sweet- 
smelling herbs. The odour of my son is as the odour of 
a full field which the Lord hath blessed (Gen. xxvii. 27). 
There is another advantage in this variety, that it is apt 
to aid us and render our prayer the easier, so that we can 
stay and persevere in it the longer : since to be always 
repeating one and the same thing is apt to cause weari- 
ness, whereas variety delights and entertains. 

What we mean to say is that it is very important for our 
spiritual advancement to take for some time one thing, 
and that should be the thing that we feel most needful for 
our soul. On this we should principally dwell at medita- 
tion, asking it much of our Lord, and stirring ourselves to 
acts upon it time after time, day after day, month after 
month, and this should be our principal concern, and this 
we should keep ever before our eyes and have it fixed in 
our heart. This is the way in which business is done even 
here in the world. Hence the saying : ' God keep me 
from the man of one affair. ' 

The glorious St. Thomas, treating of prayer, says that 
desire is greater and more effectual, the more it is re- 
duced to one thing ; and he cites the saying of the prophet : 
One thing I have asked of the Lord, for this I will entreat, 
and ever aim at until I attain it (Ps. 26). He who aims at 
knowing any science or art well, does not start learning 
one one day and another another, but he goes on for some 
time learning one until he compasses it. So also he who 
aims at compassing any virtue does well to exercise him- 
self for some time chiefly in that virtue, directing his medi- 
tation and all his spiritual duties to the gaining of it. This 
especially since, according to the doctrine of St. Thomas, 
all the virtues are connected together, that is to say, they 
are united and dovetailed into one another in such fashion 
that he who has one of them perfectly will have them all. 
Thus if you gain true humility, you will gain there- 



TR. V 

with all the virtues : uproot from all your heart 
pride and plant therein a most profound humility : if you 
have that, you will have great obedience and great 
patience : you will complain of nothing, any labour will 
seem to you little enough, all will seem to you very easy 
in comparison with what you deserve ; you will have much 
charity for your brothers, because you will hold them all 
to be good and yourself only wicked ; you will have much 
simplicity, and not judge any one, because you will have 
such a sense of your own defects as not to mind those of 
others, and so we might run through the rest of the 

To this end it is a very good plan to apply the particular 
examen to the same point as meditation, and make the 
two conjointly, because in this way, all our exercises tend- 
ing in one direction, much profit is made. Cassian goes 
further; not only at time of examen and set meditation 
would he have us insist on that of which we stand in 
greatest need, but many times during the day we should 
lift up our spirit to God in ejaculatory prayers, with sighs 
and groans from the heart ; and he would have us add 
penances besides and mortifications and special devotions 
for this end, as we shall say elsewhere more at large. For 
if this be my greatest need, if this is the vice, or passion 
or evil inclination that reigns most in me and makes me 
fall into most faults ; if on the rooting out and vanquishing 
of this vice and gaining this virtue there depends the van- 
quishing and rooting out of all vices and the gaining of 
all virtues, whatever labour and diligence is spent on it will 
be well employed. 

St. Chrysostom says that prayer is like a fountain in 
the midst of a garden or orchard, inasmuch as away from 
it everything is dry, and by it everything is green, fresh 
and fair. All depends on using this fountain of prayer for 
watering : this it is that must ever keep all the plants of 
virtues in their bloom and beauty,— -obedience, patience, 
humility, mortification, silence and recollection. But as 
in an orchard or garden there is wont to be some tree or 
floweret more dainty and cherished, to which the water- 
ing is chiefly applied ; and though water run short for the 
rest, it must never run short for that; so it should be in 




the garden and orchard of our soul ; everything must be 
irrigated and preserved by the irrigation of prayer ; but 
you must always keep an eye on one main thing, which 
is that of which you stand in greatest need ; to this you 
must chiefly apply yourself, for this you must never fail 
to find time. And as in going but of the garden you put 
your hand on the flower that pleases you most, cut it and 
go out of the garden with it, so in prayer you must lay 

your hand on what you find most necessary, and go out 

carrying that with you. 

This is a sufficient answer to the usual question, whether 
it is good to gather fruit at prayer in conformity with the 
exercise that makes the matter of meditation. We have 
said that though one should always take account of what 
one finds most necessary, yet it is also good to exercise 
oneself and elicit affections and acts conformable to the 
mystery meditated. But here we must notice a very im- 
portant point touching these acts and affections that we 
form at meditation of virtues that present themselves in 
accordance with the things meditated : they must not be 
done superficially, nor at a racing pace, but in very lei- 
surely style, dwelling on them with long pauses and great 
restfulhess, until we are satisfied and feel that that truth 
is fixed and sunk into our hearts, even though it take the 
whole hour to do so. One act and affection of this sort, 
kept up in this manner, is worth more than many acts of 
various virtues done and got through at top speed. 

One of the reasons why some people make not so much 
profit out of prayer is, because they go at a racing pace 
through acts of virtues : they go skipping and flying from 
one thing to another. Here comes a happy thought of an 
act of humility, and they make an act of humility, and 
forthwith pass on : there comes in to their turn an act of 
obedience, and they make an act of obedience, forthwith 
another of patience; and so they go at a run like a cat 
over hot coals, so that though fire were under their 
feet they would not burn. The consequence is that, when 
they come out of meditation, everything is forgotten and 
at an end, and they remain as tepid and unmortified as 

Father Master Avila reprehends those who when they 


tr. v 

are on one subject, and another occurs, at once leave that 
and pass to the other. He says that this is a usual arti- 
fice of the devil, to the end that jumping from one branch 
to another like a magpie, they may lose the fruit of their 
meditation. It is very important that we should dwell on 
affections and desires of any virtue until it soaks in and 
finds thorough entrance into our soul. Thus if you wish to 
elicit acts of contrition and sorrow for your sins, you must 
dwell thereon until you feel in yourself a great horror and 
abhorrence of sin, according to the saying of the prophet : 
I have abhorred iniquity and abominated it (Ps. 118). This 
will make you come forth with firm purposes to die a 
thousand deaths rather than commit one mortal sin. 

Thus St. Augustine well observes that for the horror 
that men have of certain sins, as blasphemy or parricide, 
they do not fall into them except on rare occasions. Of 
other sins he says on the contrary that by practice they 
Come to be made small account of ; by custom men have 
lost by this time their fear and horror of them, and so they 
fall easily into them. In like manner, if you wish to elicit 
acts and exercise yourself in humility, you must dwell on 
that affection and desire of being despised and made little 
account of until this affection and desire comes to soak in 
and gain full entry into your soul, and all the fumes and 
spirits of pride and haughtiness fall away and come to 
an end, and you feel yourself moved to be despised and 
depreciated ; and so of the rest of affections and acts of 
other virtues. Hence it will be seen what a help it will 
be to our advancement to take to heart one thing, and 
insist and persevere in that as we have said. If there be 
deep-seated in us the affection and desire of being despised 
and made small account of, or any other similar affection, 
and we hold to that an hour in the morning and another 
hour in the evening, and the same the day after that and 
the day after, it is clear that quite another effect will be 
produced in our heart, and the virtue will remain stamped 
and soak down into our heart in quite another manner than 
if we had gone over it at a gallop. 

St. Chrysostom says that as one rainy day or one irri- 
gation is not enough for the fields, however good they are, 
but many such rainy days and many waterings are needed, 


so also many irrigations of prayer are needed for pur soul 
to be saturated and soaked through with virtue; and he 
quotes to this effect the saying of the prophet, Seven times 
in. the day I praised' thee (Ps. 118). Seven times a day 
did the prophet David water his soul with the water of 
prayer, and dwelt on one and the same aspiration, re- 
peating it many times, as we see frequently in the Psalms. 
In one psalm alone he repeats twenty-seven times, for his 
mercy endureth for ever (Ps. 135), proclaiming and giving 
thanks for the mercy of God. In another psalm, which 
consists of only five verses, he eleven times rouses and 
invites us to praise God (Ps. 150). And Christ our Re- 
deemer taught us also by His example this method of 
prayer and perseverance in one thing in his prayer in the 
Garden. Not content with having once made this prayer 
to His Eternal Father, He went back upon it and repeated 
a second and a third time the same prayer, ettndem ser- 
monem dicens (Matt xxvi. 44). And at the end, says, the 
holy gospel, at greater length than at the beginning, He 
dwelt on this prayer, prolixius orabat (Luke xxii. 43), 
to teach us to insist and persevere in prayer on one thing, 
backwards and forwards, again and again ; for in this 
way and by this perseverance we shall come to attain the 
virtue and perfection which we desire. 


How we may dwell long in meditation on one and the 
same thing; and a very profitable practical method of 
meditation by descending to particular cases 

It remains for us to describe the method which we shall 
be able to use in order to continue a long time aspiring 
after the same virtue, since it is so important as we have 
said. The common and ordinary means usually given for 
this is to endeavour to continue the same act and affec- 
tion of the will, or return to reiterating and repeating it 
anew, as one gives a new tap to a hoop that it may not 
stop running, or as one flings fresh fuel into the furnace, 
aiding ourselves to this end by the same first reflection 


TR. V 

that originally moved us to this affection and desire, 
repeatedly rousing the will therewith, when we see that it 
is growing cold, saying with the prophet : Turn thou, my 
soul, unto thy rest, since the Lord hath blessed thee 
(Ps. 114) : awake, my soul, and turn to thy repose : see 
how much thou art concerned in this, and how right and 
reasonable that thou shouldst do much for the Lord, to 
whom thou owest so much. When the first consideration 
no longer suffices to move us, we must make use of another 
new consideration, or pass on to another point. For this, 
we should always bring different points ready prepared, 
so that when we have finished one, which seems no longer 
to make any impression on us, we may pass to another 
and another that may move us afresh, and prompt our 
aspirations to what we desire. 

Furthermore, as here on earth, to avoid the repugnance 
that may be caused by continuing again and again the 
same dish, we are wont to dress it in different manners till 
it seems new and gives us a new appetite, so also to per- 
severe a long time on one and the same thing in prayer, 
which is the food and sustenance of our soul, it is a good 
plan to dress it in different ways. This we can do some- 
times by passing to another point and another considera- 
tion, as we just now explained, for every time that a per- 
son moves and actuates himself by a different motive or 
consideration on the same thing, it is like dressing the 
dish in another manner, and so it becomes as it were 
new. And even without any new motive or new considera- 
tion, the aspiration after the same virtue may be dressed 
in many ways. Thus in dealing with humility, a person 
may sometimes dwell on his self-knowledge of his own 
miseries and weaknesses, rousing shame and self-abase- 
ment for them ; at other times he may dwell on desires to 
be despised and held in small account by others, making 
no account of the opinion and esteem of men, but taking 
it all for vanity ; at other times he may be ashamed and 
blush to see the faults that every day he heaps up, and beg 
of God pardon and remedy for them ; at other times he 
may return thanks that he has not been left to fall in other 
and graver matters. By this variation and difference we 
escape the loathing that is often caused by continuance 


of the same thing, and are able readily and with relish to 
last out and persevere in exciting affections of one and the 
same virtue, whereby the virtue takes root and gets a 
better hold on the heart. For as every time the file passes 
over the iron, it takes off something, so every time we 
make an act of humility, or of any other virtue, something 
of the contrary vice is worn away and got rid of. 

Besides this, there is another way of persevering in 
meditation on one subject for many days, — a very easy and 
profitable way ; and that is by coming down to particular 
cases. The masters of spiritual life here observe that we 
must not be satisfied with drawing from meditation a 
general desire or purpose of serving God, or of advancing 
and being perfect in general, but we must come down to 
that in which we know that we shall be able to serve and 
please God better. Neither must we be content with elicit- 
ing a general desire of any particular virtue, as to be 
humble, obedient, patient, or mortified, — for this desire 
or velleity of virtue even vicious people have, since virtue 
is a fair and honourable thing, of much profit both for this 
life and the next. It is easy enough to love and desire it 
in general, but in whatever virtue we desire we must come 
down to particular cases. Thus if we wish to attain a 
great conformity to the will of God, we must come down, 
and conform ourselves to His will in particular cases, as 
in health so in sickness, as in life so in death, as in con- 
solation so in temptation. If we aim at attaining the 
virtue of humility, we must come down to the particular, 
imagining particular cases, likely or possible to turn up, of 
our being despised and losing caste; and so of other 
virtues ; because these occasions are more felt, and in them 
the difficulty of virtue lies ; here virtue is proved and made 
to appear, and these are the means to gain it. 

Our first instances should be taken from lesser and 
easier things ; thence we may go on to things more diffi- 
cult, things that we should feel more if they did occur. 
Thus we should go on and face them little by little, elicit- 
ing acts thereupon as if they were actually present, till 
we find no obstacle in the virtue we are after, but have 
courage for everything and the field is won. And when 
actual occasions present themselves, in these we should 



TR. V 

exercise ourselves first of all, disposing ourselves to bear 
them courageously and with profit, each according to his 
condition. A servant of God adds that in meditation we 
should always put before us something to do that very 
day : so far even as this do they wish us to descend to 
particulars in our meditation. This is one of the most 
profitable exercises that we can go through in meditation ; 
for, as we have said, our meditation ought to be practical, 
or directed to action, to gain the virtue we desire and over- 
come all repugnances thereto. This is what soldiers do, 
who before war are wont to engage in jousts, tournaments, 
skirmishes and the like exercises, to be prepared and skil- 
ful for real war. 

Cassian greatly commends this practice, so also does 
Plutarch and Seneca. They say it is very profitable to 
have your mind always engaged on the thought of trials 
and troubles ; because as he who will think of nothing but 
pleasant eventualities weakens himself and has no staying- 
power, and is quite upset when disagreeable things befall 
him, and upon the mean-spirited habit of squeamishness 
that he has contracted turns his back to think of other 
things pleasant and agreeable ; so he who is accustomed 
ever to be picturing to himself sicknesses, exiles, prisons, 
and all other adversities that can happen, will be more 
ready and wide-awake when they do come, and will find 
that such things strike more terror in the beginning than 
they do harm in the. end. St. Gregory says well : " The 
missiles that are foreseen hit you less." A blow does not 
hurt you so much when you were expecting it, and in 
thought had half digested already, as when it catches you 
suddenly. It is clear that enemies frighten you more 
when they spring upon you suddenly than when you were 
on the look-out for them. 

In the Life of our blessed Father Ignatius we read a 
marvellous example to this effect. One day that he was un- 
well, the doctor told him not to give way to sadness or 
any gloomy thoughts. Thereupon he began to think 
attentively within himself what occurrence could possibly 
happen to him so disagreeable and hard as to afflict the 
peace and tranquillity of his soul ; and having turned the 
eyes of his reflection over many things, one thing alone 


presented itself that he would very much take to heart, and 
that was if by any chance our Society were broken up. He 
went on reflecting how long this affliction and pain would 
last, in case it happened ; and he thought that if it hap- 
pened without any fault on his part, within one. quarter 
of an hour of recollection and prayer he would be rid 
of that grief, and recover his ordinary peace and cheer- 
fulness, although the Society were dissolved like salt in 
water. This is a very good and very profitable prayer. 

The Apostle St. James says in his Canonical Epistle : 
Is any one sad among you? let him pray (James v. 13). 
When you feel any sadness or discouragement, have re- 
course to prayer, and you will find there comfort and 
remedy. This what the prophet David did : My soul 
refused to be comforted: I had recourse to God, and I 
found comfort (Ps. 76). When he felt himself destitute of 
comfort, he had recourse to God and raised his heart to 
Him, and forthwith his soul was filled with joy and con- 
solation. ' This is the will of God : He wills it so : if God 
is satisfied, we are all satisfied.' As after the coming of 
the occasion and the distress it is a very good remedy to 
have recourse to prayer, in order to bear it well and with 
advantage, so also it is very important to take this remedy 
by anticipation beforehand, so that the trouble may not 
afterwards strike us as something new, but as something 
easy and bearable. 

St. Chrysostom says that one of the reasons why holy 
Job was so brave and constant in his adversities and afflic- 
tions was because he had anticipated them in the" manner 
we have said, thinking of them beforehand and presenting 
them to his imagination and rousing himself to meet them 
as something that might well happen, as he himself says : 
The fear that I feared hath befallen me, and what I 'was 
afraid of hath come true (Job iii. 25). But if you are not 
fortified beforehand on this point, <and if even in desire you 
feel difficulty, what will it be in act ? If when you are at 
prayer, and far from the occasion, you do not feel courage 
and strength to embrace this office, or that practice, or that 
hardship and affront, what will it be when you are away 
. from prayer and confronted by the difficulty of the occasion 
and the work, and without the consideration and medita- 



TR. V 

tion of the example of Christ supporting and animating 
you? You much desired something at prayer, and after- 
wards when the occasion offered, you broke down : what 
would it have been if you had not anticipated it, and even 
at prayer had had no desire of it? "If he who makes 
resolutions often fails, what shall become of him who 
rarely or never makes any resolution?" (A Kempis.) 

Herein we present abundant matter to enable one to last 
out and persevere in meditation on one subject, and in 
the same affection, many hours and many days, since the 
particular occasions that may offer, and to which we may 
descend, are countless, and there is much to do to bring 
yourself to face them all. And when you have come to 
that pitch that you fancy you feel in yourself courage and 
strength for everything, think not that all the work is 
done, but rather there is a long way to go, since there is 
a great gap between word and deed, and between desire 
and execution. It is plain that execution is harder than 
desire, because in practice the object is present, but in 
desire only the imagination. Thus it often befalls us that 
we are very fervent in prayer, and fancy that there is no 
obstacle in our way, and afterwards, when the occasion 
offers, we find ourselves very far from what we thought. 

Thus it is not enough that you feel in yourself those 
desires, but you must manage to make those desires so 
strong and so effectual as to reach to execution, for that is 
the proof of virtue. And if you see that your perform- 
ances agree not with your desires, but that, when the 
occasion offers, you find yourself other than at meditation 
you thought you were, be confounded to think that your 
whole being goes out in desires ; or to say better, that they 
cannot be true desires, but delusions and imaginations, 
since a very slight thing troubles and upsets you and 
makes you turn back. And as the smith, when the work 
does not turn out well, puts it back a second time into the 
fire to forge it anew, so you must go back to the furnace 
of meditation to forge those desires better, and stop not 
till the work agrees well with the desire and there is no 
fault to find with it. 

But even when you have come to this, that you seem to • 
take up well the occasions that offer, think not that the 

ch. xvi 



whole work is done ; for in the same work there are many 
degrees and steps to mount, to reach the perfection of 
virtue. For the first degree it is necessary to practise 
yourself in taking up with patience all the occasions that 
offer. This is the first degree of virtue; suffer with 
patience, if you cannot with joy ; and in this you will find 
enough to occupy your attention for some days, and even 
a good many. And when you have got so far as to suffer 
with patience all. the occasions that offer, you have still 
a long way to go to arrive at the perfection of virtue : for, 
as philosophers say, the sign of one having gained the per- 
fection of virtue is when one does the works thereof with 
promptitude, facility and delight. See then whether you do 
the works of the virtue of humility, of poverty, of patience, 
and of the other virtues, with promptitude, facility, and 
delight; and thereby you will see if you have gained the 
virtue. See whether you rejoice as much under con- 
tempt and dishonour as worldly people do under honour 
and marks of respect, which is the rule laid down for us 
by our holy Father, drawn from the gospel. See if you 
relish and rejoice in poverty of food and clothing and 
lodging, and in the worst things in the house being given 
you, as much as the covetous man in riches and abund- 
ance. See whether you rejoice in mortification and 
suffering as much as people of the world in ease and 
comfort. If we are to attain to this perfection in every 
virtue, we shall have plenty to think about, even over one 
virtue, for many days and perhaps years. 


That in the consideration of the divine mysteries we 
should also proceed leisurely, and not pass over them 
superficially ; and of some means to help us to do this 

In the consideration of the divine mysteries it is again 
very important to dig deep in one subject, and not pass 
over things hurriedly ; for one mystery, well considered 
and pondered will do us more good than many superfi- 
cially glanced at. To this end our Father in the book of 
Spiritual Exercises makes so much account of repetitions, 
that for every exercise he further bids us make one or two 
repetitions thereof : thus what is not found the first time 
over is found by further perseverance. He that seeketh 
findeth, arid the door shall be opened to him that knocketh 
(Matt. vii. 8). Moses struck the rock with his rod, and 
no water came : he struck a second time, and there was 
a flow of water (Num. xx. n). Take the case of that 
blind man in the gospel: Christ our Redeemer did not cure 
him all at once, but wrought the cure little by little. First 
He put spittle on his eyes, and asked him if he saw any- 
thing. He said he saw certain shapes, but did not know 
what they were. J see men walking like trees (Mark 
viii. 24). He took the men for trees. The Lord then 
proceeded to put His hands on his eyes, and healed him 
entirely, so that he saw clearly and distinctly. So it is 
wont to happen in meditation, that by returning once and 
again to the same subject, and persevering in it, one 
comes to find out more. Even so when one enters 
a dark room, to start with, one sees nothing, but 
comes to see something by staying there. And in par- 
ticular we must take care always to dwell on the con- 
sideration of things until we are quite disabused of error, 
and penetrated with truth, and convinced, and resolved 
to do the right thing, for this is one of the chief fruits 
that we have to draw from meditation, and we need to 
be well grounded in it. 

Coming to the means that will help us to consider and 


ch. xvii 



ponder the mysteries in this manner ; when the Lord sends 
His divine light and opens the eyes of the soul, she finds so 
much to consider and so much to dwell upon that she can 
say with the prophet : Rouse mine eyes from slumber, O 
Lord, and I will consider the marvels of thy law. I will 
rejoice over thy works, as one who findeth much spoil 
(Ps. 118). The second passage, explains the first. I will 
rejoice in the abundance of mysteries and marvels that I 
have found in Thy law, as one rejoices, who finds much 
booty after gaining a victory. 

The blessed St. Francis and St. Augustine spent whole 
days and nights over those two short ejaculations": " Who 
art thou, and who am I? may I know myself, and may I 
know Thee, my God and my all. ' ' This is a method of 
prayer very akin to that which the prophet Isaiah says the 
citizens of heaven observe, who wrapt in contemplation 
of the Divine Majesty are perpetually singing, saying and 
repeating, Holy, holy, holy (Isai. vi. 3). St. John the 
Evangelist says the same, speaking of those mysterious 
living creatures who stood before the throne of God : And 
they rested not either day or night saying, Holy, holy, 
holy, Lord God omnipotent, who was and who is and who 
is to come (Apoc. iv. 8). 

But to arrive at this, it is necessary that we ourselves 
should do our part, accustoming ourselves to dwell on the 
mysteries, pondering and sounding the depths of their 
particular details, and that we should practise ourselves 
much in this. Gerson says that one of the chief means 
that We can apply, and one that will help much to enable 
us to make this meditation well, will be to exercise our- 
selves continually upon it. It is not a business that is 
taught by rhetorical phrases, or can be learnt by hearing 
of many discourses, or reading of many treatises on 
prayer, but only by putting our hand to the work and 
exercising ourselves much therein. When a mother goes 
about teaching her son to walk, she does not spend an 
hour in giving him instructions on the method he must 
observe in walking, telling him to move his feet now one 
way now another, but she makes him walk, and in that 
way the child finds out and comes to know how to do it. 
This then must be the method whereby we are to learn 



TR. V 

this science. And though it is true that to obtain the 
gift of prayer, or of anything else supernatural, no exer- 
cise of our own is sufficient, but it must come from the 
gracious and liberal hand of the Lord, for the Lord giveth 
wisdom, and from his mouth proceedeth prudence and 
knowledge (Prov. ii. 6); yet His Majesty wishes that we 
should exercise ourselves therein, as though we had to 
attain it by this means alone ; for he disposeth all things 
sweetly, and reacheth from end to end strongly (Wisd. 
viii. i). And so He disposes the works of grace con- 
formably to those of nature ; and as other sciences and 
arts are attained by practice, so He wishes to teach us this 
science also in that manner. By fiddling one learns to 
fiddle : by walking one learns to walk : and by praying 
one learns to pray. 

Gerson says that the reason why there are so few con- 
templatives to-day is for want of this exercise. Of old, 
as we see, there were in those monasteries of monks ever 
so many men of high prayer and contemplation, and 
nowadays you will scarcely find one man of prayer ; and 
when one speaks of contemplation, it sounds like talking 
Arabic or metaphysics, one of those things that nobody 
understands. The reason of this, he says, is because 
formerly those holy monks practised much prayer them- 
selves, and when youths entered the monasteries, they at 
once imposed this duty on them and exercised them much 
in it, as we read in the Rule of St. Pacomius and other 
monastic Fathers. So Gerson counsels what he takes to 
be very important for the good of monasteries, that they 
should have spiritual men, learned and well versed in 
prayer, who when youths enter the monasteries, should 
at once from the first instruct them in the exercise of 
prayer. And our Father took this advice so seriously, and 
left it so strongly inculcated in his Constitutions, that not 
only in the beginning, in the Houses of Probation, he 
would have someone to instruct newcomers therein, but in 
all the colleges and houses of the Society he would have 
appointed a Prefect of Spiritual Things, to attend to this, 
and see how every one gets on in prayer, for the great 
importance that he attached to it. 

Another thing also that will help us much to continue 


this exercise of prayer and persevere much in it, is to have 
a great love of God and spiritual things. So spoke the 
Royal Prophet : How I love, O Lord, thy law: all day 
long it is matter! of my meditation: I am never wearied of 
thinking of it day and night, it is all my delight and 
recreation; and I recreated myself over thy command- 
ments, which I loved (Ps. 118). If we had a great love of 
God, we should willingly think of Him days and nights, 
and never want matter of thought. Oh how wllling-ly 
does a mother think of a son whom she tenderly loves ! 
how little need has she of arguments and considerations 
to refresh herself in the memory of him ! In speaking of 
him her heart is at once touched, and tears start from her 
eyes, without further arguments or considerations. Begin 
to speak to a widow of her deceased husband, whom she 
dearly loved ; and you will see how she begins at once to 
sigh and weep. Now if natural love can do this, — and 
why do I speak of natural love? if the frantic love of one 
who is over head and ears in his passion often keeps 
him so absorbed and swallowed up, as we see, in the 
object of his passion, that seemingly he can think of 
nothing else, — how much more shall the supernatural 
love of the infinite beauty and goodness of God be able to 
do, since grace is more powerful than nature and per- 
versity ! If God were all our treasure, our heart would 
at once go out to Him : for where thy treasure is, there is 
thy heart also (Matt. vi. 21). Everyone willingly thinks 
of that which he loves and in which he takes delight: 
therefore Holy Scripture says : he tasted and saw (1 Kings 
xiv. 27 : Prov. xxxi. 18) : taste and see that the Lord is 
sweet (Ps. 33). Tasting goes before seeing, and seeing 
gives increase of yearning and love. So says St. Thomas; 
treating of this matter, that " contemplation is the 
daughter of love," because its beginning is love; and he 
also says that its end is love, because from loving God one 
is moved to think of and contemplate Him ; and the more 
onie looks and contemplates, the more one loves, because 
good things looked upon invite us to love them ; and the 
more we look, the more we love them, and the more we 
delight in going on looking and loving. 


A practical showing how it is in our power always to 
; make a good meditation and gather fruit from it 

The very special and extraordinary prayer, of which we 
spoke above, is a very particular gift of God, which He 
gives not to all, but to whom He pleases; but as for that 
ordinary and plain mental prayer, of which we are treating 
now, God refuses it to none. Some make the mistake 
of thinking that, because they cannot attain to that high 
prayer and contemplation, they cannot pray at all, and 
are not made for it ; whereas the other and lower is a very 
good and profitable prayer, arid by it we can attain to 
perfection. Of this then, we will now speak, since with 
the grace of the Lord it is in our power always to make 
it well and draw fruit from it, which is a very consoling 

By two ways we may gather this conclusion very well 
from what has been said. • In the first way, because this 
method of prayer that our Father teaches us is to exercise 
therein the three powers of our soul, putting with the 
memory before the eyes of the understanding the point 
or mystery on which we wish to meditate, and thereupon 
setting to work with the understanding, reasoning, medi- 
tating, and considering those things which will better 
help to move bur will; whereupon must follow our affec- 
tions and desires of the will; and this last is the principal 
fruit that we should draw from meditation. Thus medi- 
tation does not consist in those sweetnesses and sensible 
relishes that we sometimes feel and experience, but in 
the acts that we make with the powers of our soul. Now 
to make these acts is always in our power, however dry 
and disconsolate we may be. For though I be drier than 
a stick and harder than a stone, it is in my power, with 
the favour of the Lord, to make an act of abhorrence and 
grief for my sins, and an act of the love of God, an act of 
patience and an act of humility, and desire to be con- 
temned and slighted in imitation of Christ, who was con- 




temrted and slighted for me. We must observe that this 
affair of making a good meditation and drawing fruit 
from it does not consist in eliciting these acts with relish 
and sensible consolation, nor in feeling much what one 
does : not in this does the goodness and perfection of those 
acts consist, nor the merit of them. And this is to be 
noted, because many make the mistake of breaking their 
hearts over the thought that they can make nothing of 
meditation, because they do not feel all the sorrow for their 
faults and sins, or all the aspiration after virtue and desire 
of it, that they could wish. These feelings belong to the 
sensitive appetite : the will is a spiritual power and inde- 
pendent of that : thus it is not necessary to feel one's acts 
in this manner, but it is enough to seek it with the will. 

So all divines and saints, dealing with contrition and 
sorrow for sin, advise penitents- who are disconsolate 
because, taking into account the gravity of mortal sin, 
they cannot burst out into tears, nor feel in themselves 
that sensible grief that they would have wished, so that 
their very hearts should have broken with grief. They 
tell them, true contrition and sorrow for sin is not in 
the sensitive appetite, but in the will. Be grieved for 
your having sinned because it offends God who is worthy 
of being loved above all things, for that is true contrition. 
As for that feeling, — when the Lord gives it, receive it 
gratefully; and when He does not, be not distressed, for 
it is not that that God asks of us. Clearly He cannot 
ask of us what is not in our power : now this feeling 
that you would like to have is a taste of sensible devotion 
which is not in our power ; and thus God does not ask 
it of us, but only what is in our power, which is grief of 
the will, a thing quite independent of that feeling. And 
the same with acts of love of God ; love God with your 
will above all things, for this is a strong and appreciative 
love, and what God asks of us : that other is a love of 
tenderness, which is not in our power. The same with 
acts of other virtues, and all the good purposes that we 
form. ■ 

This truth may be well seen by what is true on a con- 
trary supposition : for it is certain that if a man with his 
will embraces arid consents to a mortal sin, he will cer- 



tr. v 

tainly sin mortally and go to hell for it, even though he 
have no feeling nor sensible relish for it whatsoever. There- 
fore when a man embraces what is good, though he have 
no feeling nor sensible relish in the matter, he will please 
God and merit heaven, especially as God is more ready 
to reward than to punish. Nay oftentimes these acts are 
more meritorious and pleasing to God, when they are done 
in dryness without taste of sensible consolation, because 
they are purer and stronger and more lasting, and a man 
puts more of his own into them then than when he is 
carried off his feet by devotion. Thus it is a sign of a 
more solid virtue, and of a will firmer in the service of God, 
when a man makes these acts without these side-aids of 
spiritual delights and consolations, — for what would he 
not do, were such aids at hand to him ? Father Master Avila 
says very well : " The one is carried in arms like a baby, 
the other walks on his own feet like a grown-up person." 
Blosius says that such persons are like men who serve a 
master at their own cost. It is very important that we 
should accustom ourselves to make our meditation in this 
manner, because the more ordinary course of meditation 
with many is apt to be dryness ; these others are extra- 
ordinary comforts. As those who voyage on the high 
seas in galleys do it by force of their arms in rowing, 
when the wind drops ; so those who seek to practise medi- 
tation, when the fair wind of lights and consolations from 
the Lord drops, must contrive to carry on their voyage by 
the oars of their own faculties, helped by the favour of 
the Holy Ghost, though it be not so copious and super- 

Secondly, we may draw this conclusion in another way. 
Meditation, as we have said, is not an end, but a means 
to our spiritual progress and our gaining the victory 
over our passions and bad inclinations, and so smooth- 
ing the way and removing obstacles that we may give 
ourselves over entirely to God. When the scales fell 
from the eyes of St. Paul's soul with that light from 
heaven and that divine voice, I am Jesus, whom thou 
persecutest (Acts ix. 5), what a changed man he was, 
how convinced, how resolved and given over to do the 
will of God ! Lord, he cried, what wouldst thou have me to 

CH. XV111 


do? That is the fruit of a good meditation. And so we were 
saying that we must not be content with drawing from 
meditation general purposes and desires, but we must 
descend in particular to that of which we have most need, 
and prepare ourselves and be on the look-out to surmount 
well the occasions that may present themselves that day, 
and go our way with all edification. 

To apply this to our purpose ; by the grace of the Lord 
this is always in our power, it rests with us always to put 
a hand to what we have the greatest need of. Put one 
hand to humility, another to patience, another to obedi- 
ence, another to mortification and resignation ; and take 
care always to come out of meditation very humble, very 
resigned and indifferent, very desirous to mortify your- 
self and conform yourself in all things to the will of God ; 
and especially always take care to come away from medi- 
tation determined that day to live well and with edification 
according to your particular condition. So you will have 
made a very good meditation, and a better one than if you 
had shed many tears and enjoyed much consolation. 

This being so, there is no need for any one to be dis- 
tressed at being unable to find many reflections and con- 
siderations, or feelings of devotion ; for meditation does 
not consist in this, but in the other. Nor again should 
one make much account of distractions and thoughts that 
usually give trouble at meditation without our wanting 
them, a thing that we are apt very commonly to com- 
plain of. Try, when you notice this and come back to 
yourself, to lay hold of what is necessary for you and of 
the fruit that you have to gather, and hereby supply and 
make up for the time that has gone over the distraction : 
so you will have your revenge on the devil, who has made 
you so distracted with irrelevant thoughts. This is a 
very profitable direction for meditation. As it is with 
one who, travelling in company with others, has fallen 
asleep, and his companions have gone on ahead, when 
he wakes, he makes ever so much effort to catch them up, 
and covers as much ground in a quarter of an hour as 
he would in a whole hour had he. not fallen asleep; so 
you, upon advertence and coming to yourself after the 
distraction, must manage so well as to do in the last 

3 io 


TR. V 

quarter of an hour what you would have done in the whole 
hour if you had been very attentive. Take account of 
yourself and say : what was it that I intended to get out 
of this meditation? what was the fruit that I came pre- 
pared to gather from it? humility? indifference? resigna- 
tion? conformity to the will of God? know then that I 
mean to get it all the same out of this meditation, just 
to plague the devil. And when it seems to you that you 
have done badly the whole meditation through, and 
gathered none of the fruit that you desired, then at the 
examination of the meditation, of which we shall speak 
afterwards, you must do this, and thereby make up for the 
faults that you have committed in the meditation, and so 
you will always gather fruit from it. 


Of some other easy means and methods how to make 
a good and profitable meditation 

There are other easy methods that will help us much to 
make meditation, whereby it will also appear how it is 
always in our power to make a good and profitable medi- 
tation, and how mental prayer is for all, and how there is 
none that cannot make it. 

I. On the first head, that is very good for this purpose 
which some masters of spirit observe : they say that we 
must not make meditation a romance or an artificial thing, 
but that we must act in it as men act in matters of busi- 
ness : they pause to think of what they are doing, and 
how their business goes, and how it may be expected to 
go better. Thus the servant of God should deal with 
himself in meditation simply and without artifice ; how 
goes it with me in the matter of my spiritual progress and 
salvation? — for this is our business, and we are in this 
life for nothing else than to transact this affair. Let the 
Religious then take account of himself, and set himself to 
consider very leisurely : how am I getting on with this 
business? what have I profited by these ten, twenty, 
thirty or forty years that I have been in Religion? what 
have I gained and acquired in the way of virtue, humility 

ch. xix 



and mortification ? I want to see the account that I shall 
give to God of these so great advantages and means that 
I have enjoyed in Religion to augment and increase the 
capital and talent that He has given me. And if hitherto 
I have made bad use of the time, I desire to make it up 
from now henceforth, that my whole life may not pass as 
it has gone hitherto, In the same way every individual 
according to his state may set himself to think in detail, 
plainly and simply and without any artifice, how he does 
his office, how he ought to do it well and in conformity to 
the will of God, how he shall carry on his business in a 
Christian manner, how he shall govern his house and 
family so. that all may serve God, how he shall bear well 
the occasional annoyances which his state and office 
carries with it ; and in all this he will find matter enough 
to consider, deplore and amend. And this will make a 
very good and very profitable meditation. 

II. John Gerson tells of a servant of God who used often 
to say : For forty years I- have studied this matter of 
prayer with all the care I could, and I have found no better 
means, no shorter and more compendious method of 
making, a good meditation, than to present myself before 
God as a little child, and as a poor beggarman, blind, 
naked and forlorn. This is a manner of prayer that 
we see the prophet David used frequently, calling 
himself sometimes a sick man, sometimes an orphan, 
sometimes blind, sometimes poor and begging : the 
Psalms we find full of this. And we know by 
experience that many who have practised and habitually 
used this kind of prayer, have come thereby to attain to 
a very high prayer. Do you then adopt this practice, 
and, please God, by this means you will come to attain 
what you desire. The prayer of a poor man is a very 
good prayer. See, says Gerson, with what patience and 
humility the poor man stands waiting at the gate of the 
rich, hoping for a small alms, and with what diligence 
he repairs to where he knows alms are given. And as the 
poor man, naked and forlorn, is before the rich, begging 
alms, and expecting of him with great humility and rever- 
ence a remedy for his necessity, so should we stand before 
God in prayer, representing to Him our poverty, our 



tr. v 

need and our misery, and hoping for remedy from His 
liberality and goodness. As the eyes of the handmaid 
are fixed on the hands of her mistress, so should our eyes 
be fixed and hanging on God, till we obtain mercy of 
Him (Ps. 122). 

III. It is told of the Abbot Paphnutius, that living in 
the interior of the desert, and hearing tell of that bad 
woman Thais, how she was a snare of perdition to many 
souls, besides being the cause of many quarrels and 
murders, he conceived within himself a desire of con- 
verting her and bringing her to God. For this end he 
put on secular clothes, took money with him, and went 
to the city where she lived. And so he did convert her, 
taking occasion of some words which she let fall. For when 
he asked her for a more secluded place, she said to him : 
" Make yourself quite easy about men, that they will not 
see you here, although to be sure from the eyes of God you 
cannot hide yourself in any place, how secluded soever." 
It is a long story, but coming to what makes for our 
purpose, he converted this woman, took her to the desert, 
and shut her up in a cell, sealing the door with a seal of 
lead, leaving only one little window, through which they 
could give her every day a small pittance of bread and a 
little water. When Paphnutius was taking leave of her, 
she asked him how she was to make prayer to God. To 
this the holy Abbot answered : " You deserve not to take 
into your filthy mouth the name of God. Your prayer 
shall be to go on your knees, look to the east, and say 
many times over these words : Thou who hast made me, 
have mercy on me." And so she remained for three 
years, without ever taking into her mouth the name of 
God ; always keeping before her eyes her many great 
sins, asking God's mercy, and saying those words that 
the Saint had taught her. And with this prayer God was 
well pleased. At the end of three years, Abbot Paphnu- 
tius went to consult the blessed St. Antony as to whether 
God had pardoned this woman her sins. Antony called 
his monks together, and bade them all sit up that night 
in prayer, each by himself, in order that the Lord might 
declare to some one of them the solution of the case on 
which Paphnutius had come. While then they were all 




at prayer, Paul, the chief of the great Antony's disciples, 
saw a bed in. heaven, adorned with rich hangings and 
upholstery, and guarded by four virgins. At sight of 
this rich display, he thought and said within himself : 
' This reward and gracious welcome is kept for none 
other than my Father Antony.' While he was thinking 
this, he heard a heavenly voice which said : ' This bed 
is not for thy Father Antony, but for the sinner Thais.' 

And fifteen days after, It pleased the Lord to take her to 

enjoy the glory and repose of heaven. Do you then rest 
satisfied with holding to this prayer, and make up your 
mind that you do not deserve any other, and I'll warrant 
you will please God more than by that other prayer which 
you fancy. 

IV, In a spiritual treatise On Spiritual Communion, 
left in manuscript by a Carthusian monk, the author re- 
counts a story of our Holy Father and his companions, 
which he assures us he received from a person worthy 
of credit. Ignatius and his companions were going one 
day to Barcelona on foot, as ordinarily they were wont to 
do, each one carrying his knapsack upon his back. They 
met upon the way a good man who saw them, had com- 
passion on them, and pressed them extremely to give 
him their knapsacks to carry, alleging that he was 
stronger and better able to carry them than they. After 
much demurring they gave in to his importunities,, and so 
continued their journey. When they arrived at the inn, 
the Fathers contrived each one to seek out his corner 
there to recollect himself and commend himself to God. 
The good man, seeing them do this, also contrived to 
seek out his corner and put himself oa his knees as they 
did. Pursuing their journey, they asked him one day : 
" Brother, what do you do there in that corner?" He 
answered that what he did was to say : " Lord, these are 
Saints, and I am their beast of burden : what they do, 
I desire to do, and I offer that then to God." The man 
made such progress by this prayer, that he came to be 
a very spiritual man, and had the gift of a very high 
prayer. Now who is there that cannot, if he will, make 
this prayer ? 

V. I knew an ancient Father of the Society, a very 



TR. V 

great preacher, whose prayer for a long time was to say 
with great humility and simplicity to God : " Lord, I am 
a beast. I know not how to make my prayer. Teach 
me Thyself to make it." And by this means he made 
great progress and came to an eminent degree in prayer, 
fulfilling in himself what the Prophet said : I am become 
as a beast before thee, and am always with thee (Ps. 72). 
Humble yourself then as a beast of burden before God, 
and the Lord will be with you. Much is arranged and 
gained in this way with His Divine Majesty. So the 
Saints take note here of a thing of much importance, 
that as humility is a means to attain the gift of prayer, 
so also prayer should serve as a means to attain humility, 
and keep us and make us advance in it. And they add 
that from a good prayer one should always get up with a 
sense of humiliation and confusion. Whence it follows 
that when you come from your meditation highly pleased 
with yourself, with an indescribable vain complacency and 
a secret esteem and good opinion of yourself, saying to 
yourself that now you are getting on and becoming a 
spiritual man, you should hold that prayer in grave sus- 
picion. So if you say that you cannot find many con- 
siderations nor high contemplations, humble yourself and 
draw that good from your meditation.. None can excuse 
himself from doing this, and it will make a very good 

VI. Father Master Avila in one of his letters gives a 
very good means to adopt when one cannot get on at 
meditation, but is a prey to divers thoughts and tempta- 
tions. Throw yourself, he says, at the feet of Christ, 
and say, ' Lord, inasmuch as this is my own fault, I am 
certainly very sorry for the fault J am in and the occa- 
sion I have given; but inasmuch as it is Thy will, and the 
punishment and chastisement that I have justly deserved 
for my great faults in the past, and my present negligences 
and defects, I accept it with all my heart, and am glad 
to receive at Thy hand this cross, this dryness and dis- 
traction, this desolation and spiritual dereliction. ' This 
patience and humility will be a very good prayer, and 
please God more than the prayer you desired to make, as 
we shall say more at large further on. 


VII. It is told of our Father Francis Borgia that when 
he thought he had not done his meditation well, he took 
care that day to mortify himself more, and go about all 
his duties with greater attention and diligence, "thus to 
make up for the failure of the meditation, and so he 
counselled us to do. This is a very good way of making 
up the defects of meditation, and will serve also to bring 
us to make our meditation well. The holy Abbot Nilus, 

speaking- of prayer, says that as when we fall out of order 

and go amiss during the day, and commit some fault, we 
seem to feel at once the chastisement of God in prayer, 
because He shows us then a severe countenance, so also 
when we have mortified and overconle ourselves in some- 
thing, we seem at once to feel it at prayer, God being 
minded to pay us there in money down. " If you suffer," 
he says, " in patience, hard and rough things, you will 
find the fruit of your labour in time of prayer." 

VIII. The Saint there prescribes another excellent 
means for making prayer, quite in accord with what 
we have just been saying: " If you want to pray well, 
do nothing contrary to prayer : in this way God will draw 
nigh to you and do you many favours;" 

IX. And in general let all understand that the chiefest 
care of the servant of God should be to cleanse and mor- 
tify his heart, to keep himself from all sin,' and be ever 
quite firmly resolved not to commit a mortal sin for any- 
thing in the world. In this resolve he should found 
himself right well in prayer, and dwell upon it, and again 
and again move himself thereto, for there is nothing more 
necessary for us so long as we are in this miserable life ; 
and on this foundation every one should build all tljfcrest 
of his contemplated edifice of perfection. And you should 
not repine at this, but be very grateful to God, even 
though He grants you no other and higher prayer : for 
holiness consists not in meditation, but in doing the will 
of God. Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this 
is all man (Eccles. xii. 13), so Solomon concludes the 
discourse of Ecclesiastes ; that is to say, in this consists 
all the well-being of man, and the fulfilment of his duty ; 
and with this he will be holy and perfect. 

'•' X. I wish to conclude with a method very consoling for 



tr. v 

all. When you do not feel at meditation that entry into 
things, that attention and devotion, that intimate union 
which you desire, exercise yourself in having a great will 
and desire of it, and thereby you will make up for what 
you think is wanting to you ; since God our Lord, as the 
Saints say, is not less content and satisfied with this good 
will and desire than with high and lofty prayer. God 
taught this to the holy virgin Gertrude, as Blosius relates. 
He says that one day this Saint was complaining that she 
could not keep her heart so elevated to God as she de- 
sired and thought herself obliged to do; whereupon she 
was taught from heaven that with God it is enough for 
man to wish for and sincerely desire to have a great 
desire, when at heart he feels little or nothing. Before 
God his desire is as great as he would fain have it to be. 
In a heart that has the like desire,- — you must understand, 
a will and desire, to have it, — she was told that God dwells 
more willingly than any man could among fresh and 
delightful flowers. God has no need of your high prayer, 
He seeks only for your heart, that He looks to, and that 
He takes for the deed. Offer yourself entirely to God 
in prayer, give Him your whole heart, and desire to be 
there in heaven praying with the fervour of the highest 
seraphs, and this good will God will regard and take for 
the deed. Accordingly it will be a most pious devotion 
and profitable reflection, when we find ourselves tepid 
and dry at meditation, to consider how many servants of 
God are there at prayer, — perhaps shedding tears and 
even their blood, — and join ourselves in spirit to them ; 
and not to them alone, but to the angels and heavenly 
spirits also, putting ourselves in relation with what they 
are doing, and so supplying what we cannot do, saying 
in our heart, and often with our lips, those words of the 
Canon of the Mass: " Deign, O Lord, to receive, along 
with the prayers of the angels and saints in glory, our 
voices also, who in humble confession cry out to Thee, 
Holy, holy, holy." Lord, what they say, I say; what 
they do, I also wish to do ; and as they praise and love, 
I also would fain praise and bless and love Thee. And 
sometimes it will be well to fall back upon ourselves, 
when at any time we seemed to have made a good medi- 


tation, and say : ' Lord, what I wished then, I wish now ; 
as then I offered myself entirely to Thee, so I offer myself 
now ; in that manner in which I then grieved for my sins, 
and desired humility, patience, obedience, in that same 
manner now, O Lord, I desire and ask for them.' 

Above all, it is a marvellous good practice to unite our 
actions with the actions of Christ, and supply our faults 
and imperfections by the merits of Christ and of His 
Sacred Passion. And this we should do not only as 
regards prayer, but in all other actions, offering to the 
Eternal Father our prayers in union with the love and fer- 
vour with which Christ prayed and praised Him on earth ; 
our fasts in union with His fastings ; begging the Father 
to be pleased to supply our impatience by the patience of 
Christ, our pride by His humility, our evil-doing by His 
innocence. This practice, BlOsius says, our Lord re- 
vealed to some of His special friends, that so we may 
make our actions to be of value and merit, and by this 
method may eke out our poverty by the infinite treasure 
of the merits of Christ. 


That we must be content with the -prayer described, 
and not repine or complain at not reaching anything 

higher . 

Albertus Magnus says that a truly humble man does 
not dare to lift up his heart to desire that high and exalted 
prayer, and those extraordinary favours which the Lord 
sometimes bestows on His friends. He has such a mean 
opinion of himself that he thinks himself unworthy of all 
favour and spiritual consolation ; and, if ever, without 
his desiring it, the Lord visits him with some consolation, 
he receives it with fear, thinking that he does not deserve 
these comforts and bounties, and knows not how to profit 
by them as he should. So if we had humility in us, we 
should be quite content with any manner of prayer of those 
that we have described ; or rather we should take it for 
a particular favour of the Lord, that He takes us by the 


tr. v 

road of humility, for by this wes are safe, and in any other 
Way possibly "we might fall into vanity and perdition. St. 
Bernard says that God deals with us as parents on earth 
do with their children of tender age. If the child asks 
for bread, they give it willingly ; but if it asks for a knife 
to divide the bread, they will not give it, because they see 
that it is not necessary, but rather might do them harm 
by their cutting themselves with it : so the father takes 
the knife himself and divides the bread, that the child 
may have no trouble nor run any risk. In this way the 
Lord acts : He gives you bread already divided into por- 
tions, but has no mind to give you the sensible sweet- 
nesses and consolations that there are in high prayer, 
because perchance you might cut yourself therewith, tak- 
ing yourself for a spiritual man arid preferring yourself 
to others. The Lord does you a greater favour in giving 
you your bread already cut, than if He gave you a knife 
to cut the bread. If God by this your present prayer 
gives you strength and fortitude so great that you would 
rather burst asunder than sin, and keeps you all your 
life without falling into mortal sin, what better prayer 
do you want, or what better fruit? 

This is the answer which the father of the prodigal son 
gave to the elder brother, who was indignant at seeing 
his brother received with such festive rejoicings, and 
would not go into the house, saying : " I have served thee 
so many years, and have been subject to thy command, 
and have always been obedient, and thou hast never given 
me so much as a kid to make rnerry with my friends; but 
for this other, who has wasted his property and been 
disobedient, thou hast killed the fatted calf, and made 
a splendid feast with ever so much music and great do- 
ings. " The father answered : " Son, see that I do not 
this because I cherish that other rather than thee : thou 
art always in my house with me : still it will be well for 
thee to know and duly value what I am doing for thee : 
do I not show thee favours and bounty enough in keeping 
thee always with me?" (Luke xv. 28-31). And so in 
your case : do you think it a small thing that the Lord 
should keep you always with Him in His house? It is 
a better gift that the Lord should give the gift of perse- 


veranee, and keep you always by Him, not letting- you 
depart from Him and fall into sin, than that He should 
reach you a hand after a fall, as He did to the prodigal 
son; just as it isa better gift not to let you break youri 
head than to cure you after it is broken. Now if God, 
with this prayer that you have, gives you this, what have 
you to complain of? If with this prayer He gives you 
a great readiness for all things that form part of the 
service of God, indifference and resignation for all orders 
of obedience, what more do you want? If God with this 
prayer keeps you in humility and in His fear, and in the 
habit of going cautiously, shunning occasions and dangers 
of sin, why should you sigh for more ? This is thei fruit 
that you should draw from any prayer, however high 
and exalted, that you reached; and were the Lord to give 
you many spiritual' sweetnesses and consolations therein, 
to this you should refer them all. Now this is what 
God is doing for you with that plain and ordinary prayer ; 
He gives you the end and fruit of prayer otherwise than 
by means of those extraordinary elevations and spiritual 
sweetnesses arid consolations : this is what they experience 
who persevere in that prayer. So we ought to render God 
twofold thanks, for that on the one hand He delivers us 
from the danger of vanity and pride, that we might fall 
into if : He took us by the other road ; and on the other hand 
that He gives us the fruit and profit of meditation in full 
abundance. Holy Writ tells us of the holy patriarch 
Joseph that he spoke to his brethren in harsh and severe 
words, and on* the other hand he filled their sacks with 
cornj and told his steward to see them well treated. So 
the Lord often deals with us. 

We do not sufficiently understand in what meditation 
consists; or rather, we do not sufficiently understand in 
what our spiritual progress and perfection consists, which 
is the end and fruit of meditation. Thus many times 
when things are going badly with us, we think they are 
going well ; and when they are going well, we think they 
are going badly. Draw from your meditation the fruit 
we have described, especially to live that day well and 
with edification, as we have said above, and you will have 
made a good meditation, though when you were at it you 



tr. v 

were drier than a stick and harder than a stone. And if 
you do not gather this fruit, you have not made a good 
meditation, though you were shedding tears the whole 
time, and thought yourself lifted to the third heaven. 
Henceforth then do not complain of meditation, but turn 
all your complaints against yourself, and say : 'I'm 
getting on badly in mortification,' ' I'm getting on badly 
in humility, in patience, silence and recollection.' That 
is a good complaint, since you are complaining of yourself, 
that you do not do what you ought to do and is in your 
power. On the other hand, when you go complaining of 
meditation, it looks like complaining of God for not giving 
you the facility and consolation and repose you would 
like. That is not a good complaint, it is not a speech to 
move God to mercy, but rather to anger and indignation, 
as holy Judith said to the people of Bethulia : That is not 
a speech to call down mercy, but rather to excite anger 
and kindle indignation (Judith viii. 12). It is a wonderful 
thing to see how we go the wrong way about things in 
this business, not seeing that what we ought to com- 
plain of is our not being forward in mortifying, humbling 
and correcting ourselves, which is in our power ; and in- 
stead of that we go complaining of that which is not in 
our power, but stands to God's account. Busy yourself 
in mortifying and overcoming yourself, and do your part 
therein, and leave to God what stands to Him to do, 
seeing He is more desirous of our good than we are our- 
selves ; and if we do what is on our part, we may be quite 
sure that He will not fail in giving us on His part what is 
proper for us. Of this we will speak at greater length in 
treating of conformity to the will of God, where more of 
set purpose we. will meet this complaint and temptation. 


Of the causes of distraction at frayer, and remedies 
' for it 

This is a very common complaint arid so the Saints 
commonly treat of it, Cassian in particular. They say 
that distraction in prayer may come of three causes or 
roots : first, from our own carelessness and negligence in 
pouring ourselves out during the day, with little guard 
of our heart and little custody of our senses. He who lives 
in this way has no need to enquire whence it comes that 
he is distracted in prayer and can make no way in it : 
since it is clear that the images, shapes and representa- 
tions of things that have been allowed to enter therein 
must needs afterwards molest and disturb one in prayer. 
Abbot Moses in the Collations of Cassian says very 
well that though it is not in the power of man not to be 
assailed with importunate thoughts, still it is in his power 
to refuse them admittance, and cast them out when they 
come. He goes on to say that it is also largely in a man's 
power to correct and amend the quality of these thoughts, 
and make them good and holy, and consign to oblivion 
those others that are vain and irrelevant. If a man gives 
himself to spiritual exercises of reading, meditation and 
prayer, and occupies himself in good and holy works, he 
will have good and holy thoughts; but if he deals with 
nothing of the sort during the day, but lets his senses 
brOwse on idle and irrelevant objects, such also will be 
his thoughts.. And Cassian makes a comparison, which is 
also that of St. Anselm and St. Bernard. They say that 
the heart of a man is like a millstone which is always 
grinding ; but it is in the power of the miller to make it 
grind wheat, or barley, or rye : what you put under it, that 
it will grind. So the heart of man cannot go without 
thinking of something, it must always grind ; but by your 
industry and care you may make it grind wheat, or barley, 
or rye, or earth : what you put into it, that it will grind. 

According then to this, if you wish to be recollected at 
3J 321 



tr. v 

prayer, you must take care during the day to keep your 
heart recollected, and guard the gates of your senses : 
the Lord loves to converse with souls that are as enclosed 
gardens. This was a maxim of the ancient Fathers, and 
Cassian quotes it. You must tap the current higher 
upstream, and keep yourself during the day in such 
condition as you would wish to find yourself in 
prayer ; since from the state and temper of the mind 
out of prayer is formed and determined what it is to be 
in prayer. St. Bonaventure says : " As is the liquid that 
you pour into a vessel, such will be the odour; and as 
are the herbs which you plant in the garden of your heart, 
such will be the fruit and seed that they will produce." 
And since it is quite a common and natural thing to 
think often of what one loves, if you wish to keep your 
heart steady and firm at prayer, and that thoughts of 
vain and irrelevant things may be forgotten and put an 
end to, you must mortify your affection for them, despis- 
ing all the things of earth, and fixing your heart on those 
of heaven. And the more you advance and grow in this, 
the more also you will advance and grow in firmness, 
steadiness and attention at prayer. 

Secondly, these distractions are wont to arise from the 
temptation of our enemy, the devil. St. Basil says that 
as the devil sees that prayer is the means whereby all 
good comes to us, he endeavours by all ways and means 
he possibly can to hinder it and put a thousand obstacles 
in our way, that finding us bereft of this help he may gain 
readier entrance into our soul for his deceits and tempta- 
tions. He acts with us as the general Holofernes did 
with the city of Bethulia, which was standing a siege 
against him : he cut the aqueducts whereby water came 
into the city (Judith vii. 6) ; in like manner the devil does 
all in his power to break and dismantle in us this aque- 
duct of prayer, whereby the water of grace and of all 
spiritual blessings finds its way into our soul. St. John 
Climacus says that as at the sound of the bell the faithful 
and religious visibly assemble to pray and praise God, 
so our enemies the devils unite at that time invisibly to 
tempt us and hinder us from prayer. In the Spiritual 
Meadow it is told of one of the Fathers of the desert, the 




Abbot Marcellus, that rising one night to pray and sing 
psalms according to his custom, he heard the sound of 
a trumpet, sounding what seemed like a battle-charge. 
The old man was much puzzled to imagine where such a 
sound could come from in such a lonely place, where there 
were no soldiers nor any war. Then the devil appeared 
to him, and told him that though he thought there was 
no battle going on, there was a battle, and that trumpet 
roused the devils to attack the servants of God ; and that 
if he wanted to escape the combat, he had better go back 
to bed and sleep, otherwise he would see what he was in 
for. But he, trusting in the Lord, started his prayer and 
went on with it. 

One of the things that go far to let us see the great 
importance of prayer is the great spite that the devil has 
against it, and the. continual war that he makes upon it, 
as the holy Abbot Nilus well observes. Other good works 
the devil suffers and can get on with, as fasting, discipline 
and haircloth ; but an allotted time of prayer he cannot 
endure, and tries by all ways in his power to hinder and 
put obstacles to it. Hence it is that, when we are at 
prayer, we are apt occasionally to feel more temptations 
than at other times. Then there seems to come upon us the 
whole troop of wrong thoughts, thoughts at times so evil 
and foul that it looks as though we had come there for no 
other purpose than to be tempted and molested with all 
manner of temptations. Things that never have occurred 
to us, never entered our mind in the whole course of our 
life, then present themselves at meditation : everything 
seems to have been kept for then. That is because the 
devil knows that prayer and meditation is the remedy for 
all our ills, the source and origin of all spiritual blessings ; 
therefore he takes great pains and calls out all his powers 
to hinder it. That is why the Saints call prayer the tor- 
ment and scourge of the Evil One. The same should be 
to us a reason and motive for esteeming it all the more, 
and giving ourselves all the more to it, the more 
we see the devil for envy trying to stop us. St. 
Thomas, John of Avila, and other grave authors, say that 
this is the reason why Holy Mother Church, guided by 
the Holy Ghost, and understanding well the wont of the 

3 2 4 


tr. v 

devil to tempt and make all the war he can upon people 
at their prayers, has ordained that at the beginning of 
every Canonical Hour there should be repeated the verse, 
incline unto my aid, O God: O Lord, make haste to help 
me; whereby we implore the Lord's gracious aid to pray 
as we ought, and defend us against the snares and temp- 
tations of our enemies. 

Thirdly, these thoughts and distractions sometimes 
come, without any fault of ours, from our own 
infirmity and weakness : for we are so weak and 
miserable, and our nature is so maimed and depraved by 
sin, our imagination especially, that we cannot say an Our 
Father without sundry incongruous thoughts coming into 
our mind, as St. Bernard complained. For this it will 
be a good remedy to take for matter of our meditation the 
very distress that we suffer, humbling ourselves, consider- 
ing and recognising how great our weakness is, for this 
humility and self-knowledge will be a good meditation. 
Besides this we will mention other remedies that the Saints 
and Masters of the spiritual life give us. 


Of other means of keeping up attention and reverence 
at meditation 

The blessed St. Basil asks how one can keep one's 
heart firm, attentive, and undistracted in prayer, and says 
that the most efficacious means is to consider that one is 
in the presence of God, and that He is looking to see 
how one prays. Here on earth, in the presence of a 
Sovereign, conversing with him, one stands with great 
respect and reverence, paying great attention to what we 
do, and to the manner and style of doing it : we should 
take it for great discourtesy to turn our back on His 
Majesty and bring in a medley of remarks not to the 
point. What shall he do, who shall attentively consider 
that he is in the presence of the majesty of God, that God 
is looking at him, not only at his outer man that is visible 
exteriorly, but into the innermost recesses of his heart ! 



Who is there that shall dare to take off his eyes and his 
thought from what he is doing, to turn his back on God, 
and go thinking of other irrelevant things? The great 
monk Jacob, as Theodoret relates, made use of this 
consideration to show what a great piece of rudeness that 
is. St. Augustine also says the same. If I were the 
domestic servant, he says, of a man of the same nature 
as myself; and at the time that I ought to be serving him 
I omitted bringing him his meat and drink to go talking 
with another servant, he would have just reason to rebuke 
arid chastise me. And if I went before a judge, to com- 
plain of some one who had done me wrong, and then 
left him in the midst of the proceedings, and stayed chat- 
ting with some one of the lookers-on in court, think you 
not that the judge would take me for an ill-mannered man, 
and bid such an ill-bred suitor be off from his tribunal 
where he was sitting in judgment ? But this is what they 
do, who go to prayer to speak with God, and then give 
way to distractions, thinking of other things quite out of 
place there. Our Fathe.r also sets down this means in 
one of the ' additions,' or notices, which he gives for 
meditation, where he says that a little before starting the 
meditation, for the space of one Our Father, we should 
raise up our heart to heaven, and consider that God is 
there present and is looking at us, and so with great 
reverence and humility we should enter on the medita- 
tion. And we must take> care that this presence of God 
is not to be lost sight of all the time of the meditation, 
according to the saying of the prophet : The meditation 
of my heart is in thy sight always (Ps. 18). 

St. Chrysostom says, when you go to prayer, reckon 
that you are entering the heavenly court, where the King 
of glory is seated under a starry canopy, surrounded with 
innumerable angels and saints, and that they are all look- 
ing at you, according to that saying of St. Paul : We are 
a spectacle to God, and to the angels and to men (1 Cor. 
iv. 9). St. Bernard advises us what we ought to do in 
such surroundings. " When you enter the church to 
betake yourself to prayer, put your hand on your mouth 
and say : Stay ye here at the door, ye evil thoughts and 
desires, and do thou, my soul, enter into the joy of thy 



TR. V 

Lord, that thou mayest see and do His holy will." V aniens 
ad ecclesiam pone manum tuam super os tuum et die: Ex- 
pectate hie, cogitationes malae, intentiones et affectus 
cordis et appetitus carnis: tu autem, anima mea, intra in 
gaudium Domini Dei tui. St. John Climacus says : "Let 
him who prays consider that he is really before God, let 
him be like a firm and steady pillar that moves not. ' ' And 
he relates how once seeing a Religious more attentive than 
the others at the chanting of the Psalms, and especially at 
the beginning of the hymns, with his mien and look quite 
changed, as though he were speaking to someone, he 
asked him afterwards to tell him what it meant. The 
monk replied : "At the beginning of the Divine Office 
it is my practice with great care to gather together my 
heart and thoughts, and call them before me, and say : 
Come let us adore, and fall down, and weep before the 
I<ord that made us, because he is the Lord our God, and 
we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his 
hand (Ps. 94)." All these are very good and profitable 
considerations for securing attention and reverence at 

Others give for a remedy to meditate in presence of 
the Blessed Sacrament, if we are in a place where we 
can do so ; or to look towards the nearest place where 
the Blessed Sacrament is kept, and fix our heart there. 
Also to look at pictures and images. Others again aid 
themselves by looking up to heaven. It is also a good 
means to enliven oneself under distractions and dryness 
at meditation to say some ejaculatory prayers, and speak 
orally to God, representing our weakness, and asking a 
remedy for it. Lord, I suffer violence, answer thou for 
me (Isai. xxxviii. 14). That blind man in the Gospel, 
when Christ our Redeemer seemed to take no notice of him 
and was passing him by, and the company were bidding 
him hold his peace, still ceased not to cry out, lifting up 
his voice higher and higher, saying, Jesus, Son of David, 
have mercy on me (Mark x. 47). So we should do, when 
the Lord makes as though He did not hear us, and seems 
to pass us by without attending to us ; and though the 
crowd and rout of thoughts and temptations impels us 
to be silent, not for that should we be silent, but cry out 


louder and louder : Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on 
me: Strengthen me, O Lord God, in this hour (Judith 
xiii. 9), that I may be able to think of Thee, and be firm 
and constant in prayer. A holy woman used to say : If 
you cannot speak to God with your heart, cease not to 
speak to Him by word of mouth repeatedly : for what is 
thus said over and over again readily communicates heat 
and fervour to the heart. And this same Saint confessed 
that sometimes, for not having used these vocal prayers, 
she had lost her mental prayer, weighed down and ham- 
pered by sloth and sleep. And this sometimes befalls us ; 
it comes to pass that we neglect to use. our voices at 
meditation out of sloth and weakness and being half 
asleep ; whereas if we did speak, we should be awakened 
and roused to meditation. 

Gerson also says that it is a good remedy against dis- 
tractions, to bring the exercise well prepared, and have 
several points fixed as matter for meditation ; because 
thereby, when we are. distracted and notice the same, we 
have ready our fixed and determined point to have recourse 
to; and if we make no way with that, we pass on to 
another point of those which we have ready prepared, 
and so recover more easily the thread of our meditation. 
And we ourselves find, when we examine ourselves, that 
oftentimes the cause of our distractions and mindwander- 
ing was our not having brought well prepared and known 
the points on which we were to meditate, nor having had 
any definite and fixed resolves to bring oiirselves to. 
Besides, this admonition and the one that follows it are 
necessary for us to come well prepared to meditation : 
accordingly our Father commends them to us in these 
emphatic words: " It will be a great help, before start- 
ing meditation, to call to mind the points that are to be 
meditated on, and have marked out a definite number of 
them." And we read of him that not only at the begin- 
ning of his conversion, but afterwards also, when he 
was old, he would read and prepare his exercise at night- 
fall and retire to rest with that on his mind ; so that none 
may think that this is a business for novices. And though 
you know the exercise very well from having meditated 
several times before, yet it is an excellent thing to pre- 



TR. V 

pare it afresh : especially since as these are the words of 
Holy Scripture, dictated by the Holy Ghost, the reading 
of them with a little quiet and repose arouses new atten- 
tion and devotion to meditate and profit by them better. 

It will also help us very much to this purpose, imme- 
diately on awakening', not to give place to other thoughts, 
but think of the exercise we have to make, and prepare 
ourselves for our meditation by some consideration 
adapted to the matter thereof. Cassian, St. Bonaventure 
and St. John Climacus hold this admonition to be of great 
importance. They say that thereon depends the guidance 
of the meditation, and consequently the good order of the 
whole day. St. John Climacus observes that the devil 
seeing this to be so important, keeps a sharp watch 
for our first waking, to the end that he may at once 
occupy the lodging, and gather the firstfruits of the 
whole day. He says also that among the wicked spirits 
there is one they call Precursor, whose charge it is to 
surprise us by night at the time that we awake from sleep, 
or even before we are quite awake or come perfectly to 
ourselves, to put before us foul and filthy fancies, or at 
least idle ones, and thereby take possession of us for the 
whole day, figuring to himself that all will be his who 
first occupies the heart. Wherefore it is important that 
we also be greatly on the alert to give no place to this, 
but immediately on our awaking, when we have scarcely 
opened our eyes, there should be already planted in our 
heart the memory of our Lord, before any strange thought 
comes to occupy the lodging. Our Father also gives us 
the same recommendation, and adds that the same prac- 
tice should be kept up, in such manner as is possible, 
when meditation is made at another hour. We should in 
that case pull ourselves together beforehand, thinking 
' where am I going? and before whom am I to appear?' 
So we should briefly call to mind the matter of the medi- 
tation, as one tunes a violin before playing. And gener- 
ally our Father used to say that on the observance of 
these and other like directions, which he calls ' additions,' 
depends in great measure the success of the meditation 
and the fruit to be drawn from it. And it is our ordinary 
experience that, when we go well prepared, and observe 

Ch. xxii 


well these directions, things go well with us at medita- 
tion, and badly when we do not. 

The Holy Ghost says by the' Wise Man : Before prayer 
Prepare thy soul, and be not as a man who tempteth God 
(Ecclus. xviii. 23). St. Thomas and Saint Bonaventure 
observe on these words that to go to prayer without pre- 
paration is in a manner to tempt God ; because to tempt 
God, as Theologians and Saints say, is to seek to gain 
an end without taking the ordinary and necessary means 
thereto, as if one were to say: ' I will not eat, because 
God can easily sustain me without eating ; He will sustain 
me' : that would be tempting God and asking for a miracle 
without- necessity. When the devil carried Christ' our 
Redeemer to the pinnacle of the Temple, and tried to 
persuade Him to cast Himself headlong, since God would 
command His; angels to receive Him and bear Him up in 
their hands, He answered : Thou shalt not tempt the Lord 
thy God (Matt. iv. 7). ' I can come down by the stairs : 
that other way would be to tempt God to work a miracle 
without necessity. ' Now preparation is so principal and 
necessary a means to meditation, that the Wise Man 
says that to seek to make meditation without preparation 
is : to tempt God, and want Him to work a miracle on your 
behalf. Our Lord certainly wishes us to make" a good 
meditation, with great attention and reverence, but by the 
ordinary means, that is to say, by disposing aiid preparing 
ourselves for it in the manner we have said. 


A great comfort for those who are troubled with 
distractions at prayer 

For the comfort of those who are troubled with this 
temptation, St. Basil observes that God is offended by 
these thoughts and distractions only when they are volun- 
tary ; when a man is distracted with advertence and seeing 
what he is about, with scant reverence and respect. He 
who at prayer sets himself on purpose to think of his 
studies, of the duties of his office, or of business, well 
deserves that God should not listen to him, but rather 
chastise him. Here comes in well what St. Chrysostom 
says : " How can you expect God to hear you, if you do 
not hear yourself ? ' ' But when a man honestly does what 
is in his power, and is distracted through weakness, and 
unable to keep up such attention as he would wish, — his 
thought failing him and flying in other directions, as 
the Prophet says, My heart hath abandoned me (Ps. 39), — 
then the Lord is not offended at that, but rather is moved 
to compassion and commiseration, knowing well as He 
does our infirmity and weakness. As a father hath com- 
passion on his children, so the Lord hath compassion on 
them that fear him, for he knoweth the clay of which we 
are formed (Ps. 102). As a father who has a son liable 
to fits of insanity, has compassion on him and feels it 
much, when the boy begins to converse in his right mind 
and then comes out with some absurdity ; so our most 
compassionate Father in heaven pities and compassionates 
us, when He sees that such is the weakness and infirmity 
of our nature, that at the. nick of time when we are con- 
versing with Him in our right mind, we break off into 
a thousand incongruous thoughts. And thus though 
one never feels any sap or moisture of devotion at medi- 
tation, but very great dryness, and is assailed by thoughts 
and temptations, and passes all the time in this way, not 
for that does the meditation cease to be very pleasing to 
God our Lord, and of great value and merit in His august 
Divine Presence : nay often it is more pleasing and meri- 


ch. xxiii 


33 1 

torious than if the time had passed in much devotion and 
consolation, because the person has suffered and borne 
more labour and difficulty in it for the love of God. And 
he does not fail either, in graining by that meditation grace 
and favours to enable him to serve the Lord better and 
grow in virtue and perfection, although he does not feel 
it. So it happens to a sick man, when he eats some nour- 
ishing food : though he has no appetite and finds no relish 

in It, but only pain and torment, yet he gathers strength 

thereby, and is kept up and becomes better. 

From what has been said it will be seen what a great 
error it is to give up meditation because in it one finds 
oneself a prey to many thoughts and temptations. Only 
we need to be well warned and take care that on this 
occasion, under the plea that we can do no more, we give 
no entry to tepidity and remissness, getting into easygoing 
ways and letting things slide, carried away by every wind 
that blows, carelessly letting thought and imagination go 
where it will. No, we must do what is on our part, we 
must with great care and diligence have an eye to and 
drive away those thoughts, as the holy patriarch Abra- 
ham drove away and kept an eye on the birds that were 
swooping down on the sacrifice (Gen. xy. 1 1). While in 
this matter we do honestly what is in our power, there is 
nothing to deserve punishment. 

We read of St. Bridget that when she was much wearied 
with many distractions at prayer, our Lady one day ap- 
peared to her and said to her : " The devil, envious of the 
good of men, does all in his power to put impediments 
and obstacles in their way when they are at prayer ; but 
do thou, daughter, take care to persevere as best thou 
canst in thy good will and holy desires, whatever temp- 
tation may trouble thee, how evil soever it be, and unable 
as thou mayest feel to throw it off " ; and that will be a 
very good and profitable prayer, and of great merit before 
God. We have mentioned above (ch. 18) a very good 
means to recover what we think we have lost by distrac- 

Of the temptation to sleep, whence it comes, and the 
remedies to meet it 

Another kind of distraction is the temptation to sleep. 
That may arise sometimes from natural causes, as want 
of sleep, heavy fatigue and labour; the hour, the person's 
age, excessive eating and drinking, though it be only of 
water. At other times it comes from a temptation of the 
devil : so those holy Fathers of the Desert related that God 
showed them in vision that there were some devils who 
settled on the cowls and heads of monks and made them 
sleep, and others who put a finger in their mouths and 
made them yawn. At other times it comes from our remiss- 
ness and negligence, and our taking a posture in prayer 
that occasions sleep. 

The principal remedy is that already mentioned, namely, 
attention and remembering that we are in the presence of 
God. One would not dare to sleep in presence of a great 
Sovereign, neither should we dare if we reflected that we 
are in presence of the Majesty of God regarding us : so 
reflecting, we should be much ashamed to sleep at medi- 
tation. It is also a good remedy to stand up, not to lean 
against anything, to wash the eyes with cold water ; and 
some are in the habit of carrying a wet handkerchief for 
that purpose when they are molested with this temptation. 
Others help themselves by looking up to the sky, by open- 
ing the window to the light, or by going to make their 
meditation in presence of the Blessed Sacrament in com- 
pany with others ; or again by taking a discipline before 
meditation, which keeps them wide-awake and devout. 
Others likewise at meditation inflict on themselves some 
pain, which keeps them awake; or if they are. alone, they 
extend their arms for some time in the form of a cross. 
It is also helpful to recite some vocal prayers, a great 
help to keeping awake and lively, as we have said above 
(ch. 22). There are these and other like remedies, besides 
begging our Lord to heal us of this infirmity. 

Caesarius in his Dialogues tells of a Religious of the Cis- 


<m. xxv USE OF RETREATS 333 

tereian Order who often used to sleep over his prayer. 
One day, Christ our Redeemer appeared to him, crucified, 
with His back turned to him, and said : "Because you are 
remiss and tepid, you deserve not to see My face." He 
tells of another who came in for a more severe castiga- 
tion ; for he being at prayer in choir, and sleeping as 
usual, there came to him a crucifix from the altar, and 
gave him such a blow on the jowl that, two days after, 
he died. All this gives us well to understand how dis- 
pleasing to God is such remissness and tepidity. Because 
■thou art lukewarm, I will begin to vomit thee out of my 
mouth (Apoc. iii. 16). 

Of St. Romuald, Abbot and Founder of the Camaldo- 
lese, St. Peter Damian relates that he took it for sych a 
grave fault for any of his Religious to sleep in time of 
prayer, that he would not allow the delinquent to say 
Mass that day he had fallen into this fault, for the little 
respect he had shown in presence of the Lord whom he 
was to receive. 


How proper it is to take some extraordinary times to 
give ourselves more to prayer 

As men of the world, besides their daily meals, have 
their extraordinary feasts and banquets, in which they are 
wont to go beyond their ordinary fare ; so also it is 
proper that besides our daily prayer we should have our 
spiritual feasts and banquets, where pur souls shall not 
feed by pittance as on other days, but have their fill of 
the abundance of the sweetness and grace of the Lord. 
And nature herself teaches us the same practice : for we 
see that not content with the dew that falls every night on 
the earth, it will also at times rain a whole week or two 
without stopping; and all that rain is necessary that so 
the earth may be thoroughly soaked with water, and no 
days of sunshine and wind coming after may avail to dry 
it up. So then it is also proper that our souls, besides the 
common dew of every day, should have some well-marked 



TR. V 

times in which they may wax so full of virtue and the sap 
of devotion that neither their occupations, nor the winds 
of temptations and vicissitudes of life, may be able to dry 
them up. So we read of many holy men and prelates of 
the Church that many times, leaving their occupations 
and affairs, they would recollect themselves for a time 
in places set apart to give themselves more to prayer and 
contemplation. We read of the holy abbot Arsenius that 
it was his custom to take one day a week for this purpose, 
and that was the Saturday, on which day he remained in 
prayer from the afternoon to the morning of the next 

And this is a very important expedient, not only for 
our advancement and growth in virtue and perfection, 
but also to prevent our falling back. For such is the 
weakness and misery of man, and the inclination we have 
to evil, that though we begin sometimes our spiritual 
exercises with fervour, we afterwards come little by little 
to grow lax and fall off from the fervour with which we 
commenced. We return to our tepidity and remissness 
as easily as water, however much it is heated, afterwards 
returns little by little to its natural coldness when it is 
taken off the fire. Indeed tepidity seems more engrained 
and connatural to us than coldness to water ; as the Holy 
Spirit says : The senses and thought of a man's heart are 
inclined to evil from his youth, for wicked is their race 
and connatural their malice (Wisdom xii. 10). As we are 
of nothing, we return to our nothingness. 

Add to this that in a busy life like ours, taken up as 
some of us are with studies, others with the work of the 
ministry, others in offices and exterior employments, we 
stand in more particular need of these intervals of recol- 
lection, because, good and holy as our occupations are, 
yet as a knife is blunted by daily use, and from time to 
time must be sharpened again, because the steel has lost 
its edge, so we come to be blunted and lose the care of 
our spiritual advancement from having to help others. 
Even there in the world the philosophers say, omnis agens 
agendo patitur, an agent suffers and loses something of 
his own. And everyone knows this well by his own experi- 
ence. On this account it imports much to recollect our- 



selves from time to time, disengaging ourselves from all 
other occupations to make up this loss, and replace the 
daily waste, and gather new strength to go forward, since 
we are more bound to ourselves than to our neighbour, 
and well-ordered charity begins at home. 

Especially so, since for the very end of aiding and ad- 
vancing our neighbour this care of ourselves is of great im- 
portance ; for it is certain that on our own greater spiritual 
advancement depends the greater spiritual advancement of 
our neighbour. Thus the time is not lost to our neighbour 
that we take for ourselves, but rather is gained : it is like 
letting land lie fallow for a year that it may bear a better 
crop afterwards. Father Master Avila says that it is like 
taking the millstone off to pick it anew, that it may grind 
better. Thus one's being a very busy man is not only 
no reason for not doing this, but rather the busier a man 
is, and the more charged with ministrations and business 
affairs, the greater need he has of having recourse to this 
remedy. Those who voyage by sea need often to come 
into port to take refreshment : so those who are charged 
with business affairs and occupations and ministrations to 
their neighbour, in the midst of so many dangers and oc- 
casions of sin, need often to take refuge in the harbour of 
solitude and recollection, to refresh themselves, and make 
themselves up anew, and increase their store of the goods 
they require. We read in the holy gospel a very good 
example of this. The evangelist St. Mark tells how the 
Apostles were very much taken up with ministrations to 
their neighbour, so much so that they had hardly time to 
eat, such was the crowd of people that had recourse to 
them. They went to make a report to Christ our Redeemer 
of what was happening, and He said to them : Come 
apart to a desert place and rest ye awhile (Mark vi. 31). 
Now if the Apostles had need of this relaxation and recol- 
lection, and the Saviour of the world advised them to 
it, how much more need have we? 

Writers on prayer say well that as sleep is to the body, 
so is prayer to the soul. So Holy Scripture calls it a 
sleep : I sleep, but my heart watcheth. I adjure you, 
daughters of Jerusalem, by the goats of the mountains 
and stags of the plains, not to awaken my beloved until 

33 6 


TR. V 

she herself wishes it (Cant, v; 2 : viii. 4). They say in 
explanation of this that as the body is set at ease by 
bodily sleep and gathers new strength, so the soul is re- 
lieved by this sleep of prayer, and gathers new vigour of 
mind to labour for God. And further, as a man eating 
the best food, if he has not the repose of necessary sleep, 
becomes listless and infirm, and is in danger of going out 
of his mind, so also he who is much taken up with external 
works, however good and holy they may be, if he loses 
the necessary sleep and repose of prayer, will grow listless 
and infirm in spirit, and will be in danger of losing his 
soul. That is why the Bridegroom bids them not to 
awaken his beloved till she herself wishes. When one is 
awakened from sleep by the noise that they make, it is 
disagreeable ; but when one wakes because the body is 
now satisfied, and the humours that ascend to the brain 
have been dissipated, that is very soothing. So God 
wishes for the soul that none may disturb or hinder her 
prayer, but that when she has had what is necessary, then 
she may awake and occupy herself in works of charity, 
since in this way she will do them well. 

Though for all Of us, at all times, it is very important 
to apply ourselves to these spiritual exercises and devote 
more time to prayer, and the more we make use of it the 
better, yet it is more necessary in certain particular occa- 
sions and conjunctures. Thus when one sees himself 
going tepid and slack in the spiritual exercises of medi- 
tation, examen and spiritual reading, not doing them as 
he ought, nor gathering from them the fruit that might 
reasonably be expected ; when he sees that he is weak and 
negligent in the observance of rules, and makes no ac- 
count of small things ; when he seems to be not getting on 
in spirit, but is turned inside out, carried away by business 
and the affairs he has on hand ; also when he descries 
some point on which he does not succeed in overcoming 
and mortifying himself as he ought, — in all these cases it 
is an excellent thing to recollect oneself for some days over 
these exercises, to arrive at a proper resolution of self- 
conquest: for it may be that in one Of these periods he will 
gain more grace of the Lord, and more strength to mor- 
tify himself and gain the victory over himself, than by 


the ordinary labour of many days. It often happens that 
a man goes halting on his way, falling and rising again, 
and by one course of these exercises he is disenchanted 
and gets thoroughly in earnest and resolved to do the 
right thing ; he changes his tone and takes another line 
of action. For after all, the being for such a time alone, 
dealing with oneself and with God, is a great preparation 
for the Lord to speak to the heart and do great favours 
there; He shall sit in solitude and be silent, for he is 
lifted above himself (Lam. iii. 28), lifted above himself 
and made another man. We have seen extraordinary 
changes brought about in this way, and the hand of the 
Lord is not shortened (Isai. lix. 1). We should never lose 
heart,, but always do what is in our power. Who knows 
what God will work in your soul by means of this prepara- 
tion? It may be that God has attached your improve- 
ment and 'perfection to one of these exercises. 

Besides, after any long journeys and businesses and 
occupations that involve much distraction, this recollection 
seems as important as the comfort and good treatment of 
the body after a long illness, that one may come back 
upon oneself and recover what one has lost. And for the 
same' reason also it is a very good thing to prepare our- 
selves beforehand by these exercises, when we are going 
to be taken up with the like occupations, so as to do things 
in a more spiritual way and without injury to oneself. 
Preservative medicine is better than the medicine that 
cures you after you have been ill. That is why our Father 
recommends all Superiors, before entering on their office, 
to recollect themselves first by some days of retreat. And 
it is a good thing to do the same when we are going to 
undertake a long arid important mission : of this' Christ 
our Redeemer gives us the example, who before com- 
mencing to preach recollected Himself for forty days in 
the desert. Also time of tribulation and distress, whether 
private and particular, Or general distress of the whole 
Church, or of the whole Order, is a very good occasion for 
this ; for to put in more prayer and more penance and 
mortification has always been a usual practice, in the 
Church to appease God" and obtain His mercy. 

All these are good occasions to recollect oneself in these 



TR. V 

exercises. But it is not necessary to go seeking occa- 
sions : our own need and interest should urge us to desire 
and bring this about many times : at least no year should 
be let pass without our taking these spiritual vacations. 
Arid when it is done, it should be done in earnest and 
with all our heart : for a thing of such consequence as 
this should nowise be done for form's sake, or as a com- 
pliment to others, or to save appearances. The Lord has 
given this means very particularly to the Society, not only 
for our own advantage, but also for the aid and profit of 
our neighbour : so the Bulls of our Institution set this 
down as one of the principal means which the Society has 
to aid its neighbour. And this is another chief reason 
why our Father wishes that we should make much use of 
these exercises, and puts it into the Constitutions and into 
the Rules of Priests that we should be very dexterous in 
the use of this kind of arms so profitable for the gaining 
of souls. These are his words : " In giving the Spiritual 
Exercises to others, after having had experience of them 
in himself, let each one have practice, and know how to 
give an account of them, and aid himself with this arm, 
since we see that God our Lord makes it so effectual for 
His service." By this means our Lord gained our blessed 
Father Ignatius, by this He gained his companions; by 
this since then so many others have been gained as well 
within as outside of the Society : and in both the one and 
the other we have seen that the Lord concurs with mar- 
vellous effect to their end, as with a means given so 
directly from His hand. Thus we should have great con- 
fidence that thereby He will help us also, and bestow on 
us great blessings. 

Another main consideration to help and animate us to 
this is the singular favour and grace which His Holiness 
Paul V. has done in this particular to all Religious, in the 
Bull and Constitution which he expedited on the twenty- 
third of May in the year 1606, the first of his pontificate, 
declaring the indulgences that Religious enjoy ; where he 
grants a plenary indulgence and remission of all sins to all 
Religious, of whatsoever Order they be, who recollect 
themselves for the space of ten days to make these spiri- 
tual exercises, every time they make them. In this is seen 



the esteem which His Holiness has of this practice, and 
which we should have. And for the consolation of all I 
will set down the Pontiff's very words : ' ' To those who 
by permission of their Superiors shall put away their other 
business, and for ten days remain in their cell, or separated 
from the conversation of others, and attend to the reading 
of pious books and other spiritual things, apt to lead the 

mind to devotion and spirituality; adding- frequent con- 
siderations and meditations on the mysteries of Catholic 
Faith, on the benefits of God, on the four last things, on 
the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and other exer- 
cises of ejaculatory or vocal prayers; exercising them- 
selves in mental prayer for at least two hours day and 
night ; making at the same time a general confession, or 
an annual confession, or an ordinary confession, and re- 
ceiving the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist or 
celebrating Mass ; every time they make these said Exer- 
cises, We mercifully grant in the Lord a plenary indul- 
gence and remission of all sins." 


Of the fruit that we should gather when we betake 
ourselves to these Exercises 

On three things particularly we should set our eyes, to 
gain them from the Exercises. The first is to renew our- 
selves in the ordinary things that we do every day, and 
perfect ourselves in them, since all our advancement and 
perfection consists in doing these ordinary things and 
getting them well done. Let no one think that making 
the Exercises consists merely in recollecting oneself for 
eight or fifteen days, spending much time in prayer. 
That is only that one may come out of retreat with a habit 
established of making one's meditation better, of observ- 
ing the additions and instructions given to make it well, 
of making one's examens well, of saying or hearing well 
Mass and Divine Office, of making one's spiritual reading 
with fruit, and so of all the rest. To this end does a man 
disengage himself for a time from other occupations, to 



TR. V 

exert and practise himself in doing these things well, that 
he may come out renewed and accustomed to do them so, 
and ready so to do them in the future. Thus our Father 
says that during the whole time of the Exercises, which 
is a month when they are made in their entirety, the 
particular examen should be kept on the observance of the 
additions, and the diligent and exact fulfilment of the 
spiritual exercises, noting the faults that are committed 
regarding the one and the other, that so the exercitant 
may become habituated and accustomed henceforth to do 
all these things right well. And he repeats this many 
times as understanding well the great means of self-im- 
provement therein contained. And not only in regard of 
spiritual duties, which are the mainspring that should give 
force to all the rest, but in all duties and occupations the 
exercitant should come forth improved by the. Exercises, 
drawing from them support henceforth to do his office 
better and his ministries, and keep the rules. Thus the 
fruit of the Exercises is not for those days of retreat, but 
mainly for the time that follows. It is when a man comes 
forth from the Exercises that we are to see the benefit of 
them in his works. 

The second thing that we are to aim at gaining from 
the Exercises, is to overcome ourselves and mortify our- 
selves in regard of certain evil tendencies and imperfec- 
tions that we have. Let each one set his eyes on those 
things- in which he is prone most ordinarily to go wrong, 
or to be the cause of others going wrong by the offence 
and disedification that he gives them, and contrive to come 
forth from the Exercises amended on this point ; and then 
he will have made the Exercises right well, for that is 
what they are particularly for, and that is their end. The 
title which our Holy Father prefixes to the Spiritual Exer- 
cises is the following, in the original Spanish : " Spiritual 
Exercises, for a man to overcome himself, and order his 
life without being determined by any affection that is in- 
ordinate." Exercicios espirituales para veneer a si 
mismo, y, ordenar su vida, sin determinarse por afeccidn 
alguna que desordenada sea. This means that one should 
aim at coming out of the Exercises altered and transformed 
into another man. And thou shall be changed into, another 

cH. xxvi YO NO SOY AQUEL " 341 

man, said Samuel to Saul (1 Kings x. 6), — into a perfect 
man, says St. Paul (Eph. iv. 13). It should be seen in 
a man's subsequent proceedings that he has made the 
Exercises. If before he was a lover of talking and losing 
time, let it be seen that now he is a lover of silence and 
recollection ; if before he was a lover of comfort and his 
own ease, let it be seen that now he is a lover of mortifica- 
tion and penance : if before he spoke biting words, let it be 
that henceforth he speaks them no more : if before he was 
lax and careless in the observance of rules, and made no 
account of little things, let it be that from this time forth he 
is very obedient" and very exact, and takes account of 
things quite small and minute, and by the grace of the 
Lord does not fall into any deliberate fault. For if a man is 
to continue exhibiting the same evil propensities and faults, 
and come out just as he went in, what is the good of the 
Exercises? , . 

St. Ambrose (De poenitentia ii. c. 10) has a story of a 
young man; and as he tells it, we may tell it also. This 
young man had gone wrong. He had occasion to take a 
long journey, and during that time he changed his mind. 
He came back to his native town, and meeting his former 
companion he gave her a wide berth. She was surprised, 
and thinking that he had not recognised her, she went up 
to him and said 1 " I am Harriet. " He replied : " But I 
am not Harry " : he was a changed man [ Yo soy aquella: 
Pues yo no soy aquel (Spanish). Ego sum ilia: Ast ego non 
ille (Latin)]. In this way we should change and trans- 
form ourselves, so as to be able to say with the Apostle : 
l live, now not I, not I that lived of old under the Law, 
and persecuted the Church, but Christ liveth in me (Gal. 
ii. 20). And this, says St. Ambrose, is what Christ our 
Redeemer means by saying : If any one will come after 
me, let him deny himself (Matt. xvi. 24) : let him change 
himself into another man, and contrive not to- be what he 
used to be. Of our Father Francis Borgia it is related 
in his Life how he conveyed the body of the Empress to 
Granada, how the Lord there gave him great light and 
opened his eyes to the vanity of the world by that spec- 
tacle of death which he had before him, and how on his 
return to Court, as he says, he seemed to find the Court 

34 2 


tr. v 

quite changed. It was himself that had been changed 
and transformed by the knowledge and enlightenment that 
God had given him. In this way then we should come 
out of the Exercises with the new light and awakening to 
reality that the Lord is wont to impart in them. 

The third thing that we should set our eyes on to gain 
from the Exercises follows from the former : it is the 
gaining of some virtue and some point of perfection, par- 
ticularly that which we are in greatest need of : for the 
rooting out of vices is done to plant virtues in their stead. 
" Two things," says that holy man (Thomas a Kempis), 
' ' aid much to advancement : the one is to turn away with 
a vigorous effort from what one's nature is viciously in- 
clined to," — here you have the thing just mentioned, — 
" and to labour earnestly for the virtue that is most 
wanting to us," — which is this third thing. So the Direc- 
tory to the Exercises, treating (ch. vi.) of the way in 
which we of the Society should make use of them, ob- 
serves that we should not spend all the time on the First 
Week, two or three days being sufficient for that, but 
should pass on to the other meditations which involve 
greater perfection. 

Among other suggestions there made is this, that from 
time to time we should take up some leading rules, in 
which is contained all the. perfection we could desire ; as 
the rule that says that as worldly men love and seek with 
great diligence honours, fame, and the repute of a great 
name upon earth, so we should love and intensely desire 
the contrary. Take to heart in retreat the gaining of this 
perfection, and the attainment of this degree of humility, 
that you rejoice as much under ignominies and affronts, 
under injuries and false testimonies, as worldly men re- 
joice in honour and reputation. If you do that, you will 
remain master of many strivings and foolish impulses that 
usually come in our way, to being held in honour and 
repute, one man for his learning, another in the discharge 
of his office, another in his ministrations and manage- 
ment of business, — trifles that get in the way and greatly 
impede our spiritual perfection. Take to heart another 
time the rule that says : let all in all things endeavour to 
serve and please the Divine Goodness purely for Itself, 



rather than for fear of punishments or hope of rewards. 
Try to attain to such purity of intention that you seek not 
your own interest in anything, neither little nor great, 
neither temporal nor eternal, but in all things desire purely 
the will and glory of God, that being your satisfaction, 
forgetful of yourself and of your own advancement and 
convenience. Take to heart another time the gaining of 
a most perfect conformity to the will of God, taking all 
things that occur, great and small, in whatever manner 
and by whatever way or means they come, as coming 
from the hand of God. On these and the like points of 
perfection we should fix our gaze, when we go into retreat 
to make the Exercises, and not stop till we do gain them. 


Some directions that will help us to profit more by 
these Exercises 

To make better profit of the Spiritual Exercises and 
gather from them the fruit that we have said, it is to be 
observed, first, that as we. have said above, when a man 
sets about meditation, not only should he have arranged 
beforehand the points that he is to meditate on, but also 
the fruit that he is to gather therefrom. So also on being 
about to make the Exercises, a man must bring prepared in 
detail what he is to gather from them. Before going into 
retreat, he must look and consider with himself very lei- 
surely and attentively, ' what is the greatest spiritual 
necessity that I have?' ' what is that to which my vicious 
nature, or my passions, or my evil habits, most incline 
me?' ' what is it that makes war on my soul?' ' what is 
there in me that may offend and disedify my brothers?' 
And this is what he must keep before his eyes to get from 
the Exercises, and to resolve effectually to amend. This 
is a very good preparation for entering on the Exercises. 
And it must be observed that, when one goes into retreat, 
one should not fix one's eyes on the attainment of a very 
high prayer, nor think that by shutting himself up in 
retreat he is to have at once easy access to God with much 



TR; V 

quiet and attention ; for it may be that he will have more 
distractions, more disturbances and temptations than he 
had in his offices and ministries ; but he must put before 
his eyes the gaining of what we have said, and make a 
resolution thereon in all earnestness. That gained, he 
will make a good retreat, though he may not have the 
devotion that he desired ; and if that is not gained, though 
from the beginning to the. end he melted in tears and 
devotion, he will not have made a good retreat, because 
that is not the end of retreat, but the other. 

That direction also will be a great help which our Father 
gives us, and wishes us always to observe in meditation ; 
that as soon as the hour of meditation is over, the exer- 
citant for the space of a quarter of an hour or thereabouts, 
sitting or walking up and down, should make an exam- 
ination of his meditation, and take account how he has 
succeeded in it ; and if it has gone badly, let him look 
into the cause thereof; let him look and see whether he 
had the exercise well prepared beforehand, whether he 
gave way to strange and irrelevant thoughts, whether he 
let himself be overcome by sleep, whether he dwelt exces- 
sively on speculation of the understanding, whether his 
heart was languid and remiss at meditation, whether he 
took no pains to exercise affections of the will, whether 
his intention was not as pure as it should have been, 
seeking rather consolation than the divine will. And if 
he finds he has been at fault, let him repent thereof and 
purpose amendment henceforth : but if he finds that the 
thing has gone well, let him return thanks to God our 
Lord, and contrive to do things in the same manner in the 
remaining meditations. 

This instruction is of great importance, because in the 
first place by means of this examination and reflection on 
how one has got on at meditation a person gains experi- 
ence how things go badly and how they go well, to avoid 
the one and follow the other : thus spiritual discernment 
is acquired, and that mastery of the subject that springs 
from experimental knowledge. On this account our 
Father set much store by this examination and reflection, 
as a means to make us masters, not only in this, but also 
in our other exercises and ministries. So he says in the 


fourth part of his Constitutions that it will be. a great help 
to a confessor to do his office well, if, after he has heard a 
confession, he makes reflection to see and consider if he 
has committed any fault in that confession, especially if 
he is a beginner, to correct himself another time and by 
dint of blundering learn to hit well. For this end also is 
made the examination of meditation, and that is the first 
thing we have to do about it. Meditation is so valuable, 
and it so much behoves us to get into the way of making 
it well, and steadily to banish the faults that we commit in 
it, that our Father, not content with the examen that we 
are wont to make every day at noon and night, would 
have us examine our meditation on the spot immediately 
after concluding it. 

The second thing that we have to do in this examina- 
tion of our meditation, and a very important thing, must 
be to see what was the fruit that we have drawn there- 
from, and apply ourselves to bring it home anew, as when 
people repeat a lecture, and draw out in black and white 
its conclusions and. truths, and make a sort of epitome of 
them. So much account must be made of this examina- 
tion, that when one cannot find time to make it after the 
meditation, it should be made in the meditation itself at the 
end of it. 

We may add here another point, which is this, that it 
will be a good plan for a man to note down what he gathers 
from the meditation, putting in writing, not at length, 
but briefly, the desires and purposes that he draws from 
it, and also some truths and illustrations, or discoveries 
of error, which the Lord is wont to give therein, some- 
times concerning certain virtues, sometimes -concerning 
the mysteries meditated. Such we. read to have been 
the practice of our first Fathers, our blessed Father 
Ignatius , and Father Peter Faber, and we have some 
things of theirs that they wrote thereon. Father Francis 
Xavier also was accustomed to do the same, as we 
read in his Life ; and in the Directory to the Exercises 
this advice is also given. Also our Father General Claudius 
Aquaviva recommends it to us in the Industriae that he 
wrote, treating of meditation. And besides the fact that 
thereby our purposes and desires are brought more to a 



TR. V 

head, we find by experience how profitable it is for a man 
to read these things long afterwards ; for being his own, 
and he having felt them as they stand, they make more 
impression on him than other things, and he readily comes 
to appreciate them again ; and seeing that since that time 
he no longer comes up to that point he had then attained, 
and instead of advancing is going back, he is ashamed at 
no longer being what he once was. Thus either he is 
animated to go back to the old standard of perfection, or 
at least to make, up by shame for his falling short of per- 
fection. So this practice will always be profitable, par- 
ticularly at the time of the Exercises. 

Lastly I say, that if ever there is a time when it is good 
to give an account of one's conscience and of one's 
prayer to some spiritual man, as we shall say afterwards, 
it will be at this time particularly ; and for not humbling 
themselves to this some do not gather the fruit that they 
should gather from the Exercises. 

Of spiritual reading, how important it is, and of 
sundry means that will help us to make it well and 

Reading is the sister of prayer, and a great aid thereto. 
So the Apostle Paul advises his disciple Timothy to attend 
to it. Attend to reading (i Tim. iv. 13). Of such im- 
portance is this spiritual reading for anyone who is trying 
to serve God, that St. Athanasius says in an exhortation to 
his Religious : " You will find none in earnest about his 
spiritual progress, who does not give time to spiritual 
reading. ' ' St. Jerome in his Letter to Eustochium strongly 
recommends her to give herself to this holy reading. " Let 
sleep creep over you," he says, "holding a book, and let 
the sacred page receive your drooping face. Tenenti 
codicem somnus obrepat, et cadentem faciem pagina 
sancta suscipiat. All the Saints greatly recommend this 
spiritual reading, and experience well shows us how pro- 
fitable it is, since histories are full of the great conversions 
which the Lord has wrought by this means. 


On account of this reading- being such a chief and im- 
portant means for our advancement, the founders of 
Religious Orders, resting on the doctrine of the Apostle 
and the authority and experience of the Saints, have 
ordained that their Religious should make spiritual reading 
every day. Of the Blessed St. Benedict, Humbertus says 
that he ordered that every day there should be a set time 
for this reading ; and, along with that, he ordered that at 
that time two of the most ancient monks should go round 
visiting the monastery to see if there was any one who left 
the duty out or hindered the rest. Thereby will be seen 
what importance he attached to it ; and by the way also it 
will be understood that these visits, which it is custom- 
ary to make every day here in Religion during spiritual 
duties, are founded on the teaching and experience of the 
Saints of old. For the. first and second time St. Benedict 
ordered that the delinquent should be corrected mildly ; 
but if he did not amend, that they should correct him 
and give him such a penance that the rest should fear 
and take warning. In the Society we have a rule for 
this spiritual reading, which says : " Let all twice a day 
give the time that is appointed for examen of conscience, 
prayer f meditation and reading with all diligence in the 
Lord " ; and the Superior and Prefect of Spiritual Things 
should take care that every one should always set aside 
some time for this. And speaking generally, this is a 
means commonly used by all who aim at virtue and perfec- 
tion ; and so that all may practise it with greater fruit, we 
will mention some things that will help theijeto. 

St. Ambrose, exhorting us to give to prayer and spiritual 
reading all the time we can, says : " Why do you not fill 
up with reading or with prayer all the spare time you have ? 
Why do you not go to visit Christ our Lord,! and converse 
with Him and hear Him? For when we pray, we con- 
verse with God; and when we read, we listen to God." 
Deum alloquimur cum oramus: ilium audimtys cum divina 
legimus oracula. Let this then be the fjrst means to 
make profit of spiritual reading, to make! account that 
God is speaking to us and telling us that which we read 
there. St. Augustine also assigns this means : " When 
you read, you should make account that £fc>d is telling 



TR. V 

you what you read, not merely that you may know it, 
but that you may fulfil and put it in execution." And 
he adds another very good and devout consideration. "Do 
you know, ' ' he says, ' ' how we should read Holy Scrip- 
ture? As when a person reads letters that have come 
from his native country, to see what news we have of 
heaven." We should read to see what the Scriptures have 
to tell us of our native land, where we have our parents 
and brethren, our friends and fellow-citizens, and where 
we are desiring and sighing ourselves to be. 

St. Gregory says that Holy Scripture, — and the same 
may be said of any other spiritual reading, — is as a look- 
ing-glass put before the eyes of the soul that therein we 
may see our interior, the good and evil about us, the 
progress we are making, or how far we are from perfec- 
tion. These good books tell us sometimes of the admir- 
able doings of the Saints to animate us to imitate them, 
that seeing their great victories and triumphs we may 
not be discouraged at our own temptations and trials. At 
other times they recount to us not only their virtues but 
their falls, that by the one we may know what we have 
to imitate and by the other what we have to fear. So they 
put before us at one time a Job, who rose above tempta- 
tion, like the foam on the crest of a wave ; at another 
time a David, who was overthrown thereby; that the one 
may animate us to confidence in the midst of trials, and 
the other may make us humble and afraid in the midst of 
successes and consolations, so that we should never have 
a secure confidence in ourselves, but walk always with 
great caution and reserve. So says St. Augustine : " You 
will then read Holy Writ to the best advantage, if you use 
it as a mirror to see. therein the image of your soul, striv- 
ing to correct and remove whatever is there reprehended 
as unsightly and evil, and to adorn and beautify it with the 
examples and virtues that you read of there." 

But coming down more into detail as to the manner we 
should adopt herein, it is to be observed that for this 
reading to be profitable, it must not be done hastily or at 
a gallop, as when one reads stories, but very leisurely and 
attentively ; for as an impetuous flow of water and a heavy 
shower does not penetrate or fertilise the earth, but gentle 

ch. xxviii 



small rain; so for reading to enter and be drunk in by the 
heart, the reading must be done with pausing and ponder- 
ing. And it is good, when We find any devout passage, 
to dwell on it a little, and make there a sort of station, 
thinking over what is read, and trying to move the affec- 
tions of the will, in the. way that we do at meditation. At 
meditation indeed this is done more leisurely ; we dwell 
more on things, and ruminate and digest them more; but 
it should also be done in its way at spiritual reading:. So 
the Saints advise, and say that spiritual reading should 
be like the drinking of a hen, that drinks a little and 
then lifts up its head, and once more again drinks a little 
and again lifts up its head. : , 

Hereby is seen how reading is sister and companion to 
meditation ; so much so that when - we wish to start a 
person at mental prayer, and would go with him little hy 
little according as the disposition of the person requires, 
we counsel him first of all to read devout books, making 
in the reading proper stations and pauses, as has been 
said ; for thereby the Lord is often wont to raise a person 
to mental prayer. And also in the case of others, who can- 
not get going at meditation and fancy they can make noth- 
ing of it, they -are usually advised to take some book and 
join prayer with reading, reading a little and meditating 
and praying thereupon, and then again reading a little ; 
for in this way, the understanding being as it were tied to 
the words of the reading, it finds no room to pour itself 
out in divers imaginations and thoughts, as it did when 
it, was free and loose. Thus we may combine;. meditation 
with reading. This is why the Saints so much recom- 
mend spiritual reading, giving it almost the same praises 
and commendations that they give to meditation. They 
say it is the spiritual food of the soul, making hef strong 
and steady against temptations; that it' engenders in her 
good thoughts and desires of heaven; that it gives Tight to 
our understatiding and inflames and kindles the will; that 
it- drives away worldly sadness, and causes true cheerful- 
ness, spiritual and according to God, and other such 
things. ' . ■ 

The blessed St. Bernard gives another admonition, how 
to make profit of spiritual reading.; . He says ; " He who 



tr. v 

applies himself to reading should seek not so much science 
as savour " : non tarn quaerat scientiam quam sap or em. 
Mere knowledge of the understanding is a dry thing, if 
it does not reach the will, feeding the affections and 
nourishing devotion ; for that is what makes reading juicy 
and fruitful, and is the end and purpose thereof. This 
is a very important admonition, since there is a great 
difference between reading for knowledge and reading for 
spiritual advancement, between reading for others and 
reading for oneself; the former is study, the latter is 
spiritual reading. If in reading you set your eyes on 
knowing things, or on gathering matter for subsequent 
preaching or talking to others, that will be studying for 
others, and not spiritual reading for your own advance- 
ment. There will be other times for that. Everything 
has its time (Eccles. iii. i). The time of spiritual reading 
is not for that, but for what we have said. 

The Saints also recommend us not to read much at one 
sitting, nor get through many pages, not to weary the 
spirit with lengthy reading instead of refreshing it. Very 
good and necessary advice for certain persons, who seem 
to place their happiness in reading much and getting 
through many books. As the body is not nourished by 
much eating, but by good digestion of what one does eat ; 
so neither is the soul nourished by reading much, but by 
ruminating and well digesting what is read. For the 
same reason they say also that spiritual reading should 
not be of difficult things, but of plain things, rather devout 
than difficult, since difficult things are apt to fatigue and 
dry up devotion. Hugo of St. Victor quotes an example 
of a servant of God, who was admonished by revelation to 
drop the reading of those things, and read the lives and 
martyrdom of the Saints, and other plain and devout 
things, whereby he profited much. 

St. Bernard goes on again to say : " Something of our 
daily reading should every day be taken down into the 
stomach of memory, there to be more minutely digested, 
and thence again brought up and ruminated again and 
again, — -something to our purpose, something that makes 
for the end we have in view, something to engage our 
attention so that it may have no inclination to wander 



away to strange ground." As we do not eat our daily 
meals simply for pastime, but that on the strength of the 
sustenance we take we. may be able to work all that day 
and all our life long; so our reading, which is the food 
and spiritual sustenance of the soul, inasmuch as it is of 
the words of God, is not meant merely to give us good 
occupation for the time of reading, but to profit us all the 
day after. To this end it will be a good pracjtice, before 

we begin to read, to raise our heart to God and beg this 
grace that we may drink in and well take, to heart what 
we read, thereby to become more earnest in pursuit of 
virtue, more disabused of error, more determined to do 
what behoves us. So we read that Blessed Gregory was 
wont to prefix prayer to his reading, and say : Depart 
from me, ye malignant, and I will search into the com- 
mandments of my God (Ps. 118). 

That we may set a higher value on this reading and 
animate ourselves the more to it, the Saints compare 
spiritual reading with hearing the word of God, and say 
that though reading has not the liveliness of the living 
voice, it has other advantages which sermons have not. 
In the first place, a preacher cannot be. at hand at all 
times like a good book. Secondly, a happy saying of. a 
preacher passes off into the air, and so cannot have so 
great an effect upon me ; but a good thing said in a book 
may be turned over again and again, ruminated and pon- 
dered, and so take greater effect. Thirdly, in a good 
book I find a good and outspoken counsellor : for, as a 
philosopher said well, what at times a friend or adviser 
dare not tell me, a book will tell me fearlessly, and warn 
me of my vices and defects, scold me and exhort me. 
Fourthly, by reading, I enter into conversation with those 
who have written the book : at one time I can go 
and have, an interview with St. Bernard, at another 
with St. Gregory, at another time with St. Basil, at 
another with St. Chrysostom, hear them and listen to 
what they say, as if I was then their disciple. So they 
say, and with good reason, that good books are a public 
treasure, for the great benefits and riches that we can 
draw from thence. 

Finally, the benefits and advantages that follow from 

35 2 


tr. v 

spiritual reading are so great that St. Jerome, speaking 
of the kindling of the fire of devotion in the soul, asks 
' whence comes this fire?', and answers that beyond doubt 
it comes from the Holy Scriptures, by the reading whereof 
the soul is set on fire with God, and burns, and is purified 
from all its vices. He quotes to this purpose what the 
disciples said when, on their way to the village of Emmaus, 
Christ our Redeemer appeared to them in the form of a 
stranger, and went on conversing with them about the 
Holy Scriptures : was not our heart burning within us 
when he was speaking to us on the way, and explaining 
the Scriptures? (Luke xxiv. 32). He quotes likewise the 
saying of the prophet : The words of the Lord are words 
chaste and pure, like silver purified in the fire (Ps. 11). 
And St. Ambrose says that the Lord tells us that holy read- 
ing is the life of the soul : the words that I have spoken to 
you are spirit and life (John vi. 64). In order then that 
we may live a spiritual life, and walk always in the spirit, 
kindled and inflamed with the love of God, let us give 
ourselves much to this holy reading, and practise it in the 
manner that has been said. 

Finally, such are the advantages and profits that follow 
from Spiritual Reading, that St. Jerome, treating of the 
inward fire of the soul, asks: " Where is this fire?"; 
and answers : " Doubtless, in the Holy Scriptures, by the 
reading whereof the soul is set on fire with God and puri- 
fied from all vices." And he quotes to this effect what 
the disciples said, when Christ our Redeemer had appeared 
to them on the road to Emmaus : Was not our heart burn- 
ing within us, while he spoke to us on the way, and laid 
open to us the Scriptures? (Luke xxiv. 32). And to the 
same effect the Psalmist : The utterances of the Lord are 
holy utterances, silver tested by fire (Ps. 11). And St. 
Ambrose : " That the reading of Holy Writ is life, the 
Lord Himself witnesses; saying : The words that I have 
spoken to you are spirit and life (John vi. 64)." There- 
fore that we may live a spiritual life, and walk always in 
the spirit, inflamed with the love of God, let us give our- 
selves much to Spiritual Readings and practise it in the 
manner that has been said. 

Hence it follows that they do ill who, once having read 

ch. xxviii 



a good book, throw it into a corner, and say, I have done 
with that. A good book is not meant to be read once over 
only : the second time over it will do you more good, and 
the third time more, and so you will ever find it new, as 
they find by experience who have a desire to profit. 
That is a very good thing also which some do, when they 
find anything in a book that moves them much and gives 

them particular satisfaction : they take a note and mark it, 
to have always at hand some arguments of greater weight 
and cogency, matter wherein they are more likely to find 
some marrow of devotion and consolation, suitable to the 
several times and occasions that occur. 

Qui: of many examples of the good of Spiritual Reading, 
I will borrow one from St. Augustine, that is very instruc- 
tive. St. Augustine then tells the story how an African 
knight named Poticianus came one day to pay him a visit, 
and gave him news of the wonders that were publicly 
related of the blessed St. Antony. He went on to say that 
one afternoon^ when the Emperor was in the city of 
Treves, taken up with witnessing certain public games 
which were being celebrated there, himself and three 
friends belonging to the Court went out for a stroll in 
the country. Two of them, apart from the rest, went 
into the cell of a monk, and found there a book in which 
was written the Life of St. Antony. One of them began 
to read it; and suddenly, his heart set on fire with holy 
love and .disgusted with himself, he said to his friend : 
" Tell me, I pray, what is it that we aim at gaining with 
all our labours that we undergo, fighting so many years in 
so many wars? Can we possibly come to any better 
fortune in the Palace than to be what is called within the 
Inner Circle of the Emperor? But in that state what is 
there that is hot precarious and fraught with great danger? 
And is it to this so great danger that we are making our 
way through, Heaven knows how many, other dangers? 
But if I want to be a friend of God, I can be so at Once." 
Saying these words, in labour with the birth of a new life 
within him, he cast his eyes once more on the 
book, and underwent an inward change, and was 
detached from all the things of the world, as ap- 
peared at once : for after he had done reading, great 
waves of emotion rose in his heart, and he said with a 
2 3 



TR. V 

deep sigh to his friend : " Now I am quiet and at ease; 
I have renounced our hopes and expectations, and am 
determined to serve God, and from this hour I mean to 
stay in this place : if you do not care to imitate me, do 
not try to divert me from my purpose." The other 
answered that he could not separate from him, nor cease 
to bear him company, in the hope of such a reward. So they 
both began to raise the spiritual edifice and follow Christ 
at the due cost, which was the abandonment of all things. 
And what was no less wonderful, both were engaged, and 
their intended brides, when they heard of the case, conse- 
crated themselves to God, and made a vow of virginity. St. 
Augustine relates this story, and it was to him a very 
moving example, so much so that on the spot he cried 
out to a friend in great excitement of mind, saying: 
" What are we doing? what is this that you have heard? 
The unlearned rise up and carry off the kingdom of heaven, 
and we with all our learning are being plunged into the 
abyss." So complaining and so feeling, the Saint says 
that he went into a garden that he had there, and threw 
himself under a figtree and gave free vent to his tears. 
With great anguish and trouble of heart he began to say : 
" How long, O Lord, how long art Thou going to be 
displeased with me ? is there to be ho end to Thy anger ? 
Remember not, O Lord, our former iniquities." And he 
went on repeating time after time these words " how 
long?", "how long?" "To-morrow, to-morrow." "Why 
not to-day? Why not to-day put an end to my turpi- 
tudes?" And saying this with great emotion, he heard a 
voice which said to him, Take and read, Take and read. 
Then he says he rose to take up a holy book that he had 
by him to read in. For he had heard of that same Antony j 
that upon one reading of the Gospel which he happened 
to hear, which said : Go, sell all that thou hast and give 
to the poor, and come follow me, and thou shalt have trea- 
sure in heaven (Matt. xix. 21) : he had determined to leave 
all things and follow Christ. Moved by this example, and 
still more by the voice that he had heard, he says he took 
the book and began to read in it ; and there and then God 
poured upon him such a great light, that he left all things 
in the world, and gave himself entirely over to the service 
of God. 




Of the excellence of this exercise and the great benefits 
that it contains 

Seek the Lord with strength and perseverance, says the 
prophet David, seek his face ever (Ps. 104). The face of 
the Lord, says St. Augustine, is the presence of the Lord. 
Thus to seek the face of the Lord ever, is to walk ever 
in His presence, turning the heart to Him with great desire 
and love. St. Bonaventure says that to walk always in 
this exercise of the presence of God is to enter on the 
bliss of heaven here on earth, since the bliss and happiness 
of the Saints consists in seeing God continually without 
ever losing sight of Him. Since in this present life we 
cannot see God clearly as He is, — that is proper to the 
Blessed,- — let us at least imitate them in such way as we 
can and our frail nature allows, by striving to be ever 
regarding, looking up to and loving God. As God our 
Lord has created us to stand eternally before Him in 
heaven and enjoy His presence there, so He would have us 
here on earth attain to some first sketch and outline of that 
blessedness by ever walking in His presence, looking up 
to Him and reverencing Him, albeit in the twilight. Now 
we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face (1 Cor. xiii. 
12). That clear vision is the reward and glory and blessed- 
ness that we hope for ; this dim twilight of apprehension is 
the meritorious means whereby we are to arrive thither. 
But after all we do imitate the Saints in such fashion as 
we can, trying never to lose sight of God in the actions 
Which we do. The Saints and Angels, who are sent to 
our aid to guard and defend us, discharge these ministries 
in such a way as never to lose sight of God. So said the 




tr. vi 

Angel Raphael to Toby : I seemed to eat and drink with 
you, but I used another invisible food, and another drink 
that cannot be seen by men (Tob. xii. 19), being sustained 
by God : the angels ever see the face of my Father who is 
in heaven (Matt, xviii. 10). We in like manner, though 
we eat and drink, converse and deal with men, and seem- 
ingly are altogether taken up therewith, ought to contrive 
that that should not be our food and entertainment, but 
another invisible food that men see not, which is ever to 
be regarding and loving God, and doing His most holy 

Great was the exercise which the Saints and those holy 
Patriarchs found in walking ever in the presence of God. 
I kept the Lord ever before my eyes, because he is ever at 
my right hand that I may not slip (Ps. 15). The Royal 
Prophet was not satisfied with praising God seven times 
a day, but he aimed at keeping God ever before him. This 
exercise was so continual with those holy men, that their 
common manner of speech was : As the Lord liveth, in 
whose presence I stand (3 Kings xvii. 1). Great are the 
benefits and advantages which follow from walking ever 
before God, considering that He is looking at us ; and 
therefore the Saints made such efforts in that direction, 
since that is enough to secure a man's behaving in a very 
orderly and very proper manner in all that he does. Other- 
wise, tell me, what servant is there whose behaviour is not 
quite correct in presence of his master? What servant so 
bold as in presence of his master not to do what the master 
bids him, or dare to offend him to his face? What thief 
would dare to steal, seeing the judge looking on hard by? 
But God is looking at us, He is our Judge, He is All- 
powerful, He can make the earth open and swallow down 
to hell the man who offends Him : who shall dare to offend 
such a God? And so St. Augustine : " When I consider, 
O Lord, that Thou beholdest me always, and watchest 
over me night and day with as much care as if in heaven 
and on earth Thou hadst no other creature to govern but 
myself alone ; when I consider well that all my actions, 
thoughts and desires, lie open clearly before Thee, I am 
all full of fear and covered with shame." Certainly we 
are under great obligation to live justly and righteously 

CH. i 



from the consideration that we do all things under the eyes 
of a Judge, who sees all things and from whom nothing 
can be hidden. If here the presence of a grave personage 
puts us on our good behaviour, what should the presence 
of God do ! 

St. Jerome, on the saying of God to Jerusalem by the 
prophet Ezechiel, Thou hast forgotten me (Ezech. xxii. 
12), says : " The remembrance of God banishes all sins." 
St. Ambrose says the same. And in another place St. 
Jerome says : " The remembrance of God and the walking 
in His presence is such an efficacious motive that we should 
never do anything to displease God, if we remembered 
that He is present and beholds us." For Thais, the 
sinner, this thought was enough to make her give up her 
evil life and go into the desert to do penance, as we have 
said above (tr. 5, ch. 19) Holy Job said : Are not all my 
ways under his eyes, and does he not count all my steps? 
(Job xxxi. 4). God looking at me as an eye-witness, and 
counting my steps, who should dare to sin or to do any 
duty badly? 

On the other hand, all the disorder and perdition of the 
wicked comes from their not remembering that God is 
present and is beholding them : this is what Holy Scrip- 
ture goes repeating many times, speaking in the person 
of the wicked : There is none that seeth me (Isai. xlvii. 
10) : He will not see our ways (Jerem. xii. 4). St. Jerome 
has noted this in the twenty-third chapter of Ezechiel, 
where the prophet reproaches Jerusalem with many vices 
and sins, and sums up the cause of them all in the- fact 
of her having forgotten God. And the same cause is 
assigned in many other passages of Scripture. As a horse 
without a bridle, and a ship without a rudder, goes upon 
rocks and destruction • so when this bridle is removed, 
man is carried away by his disorderly appetites and pas- 
sions. He keepeth not God before his eyes, says the pro- 
phet David, nor sees him present before him, and therefore 
his ways, that is, his works, are stained with faults at all 
times (Ps. 9). 

As for the blessed St. Basil, the remedy "that he gives 
in many places for all temptations and troubles, and for 
all untoward events and occasions that may occur, is the 




presence of God. Thus if you want a brief and compen- 
dious method of attaining perfection, a method that con- 
tains and embraces in itself the strength and efficacy of 
all other methods, here it is ; and therefore God taught it 
to Abraham : Walk before me, and be perfect (Gen. xvii. 
i). Here as in other places of Scripture the imperative 
is taken for the future, to emphasise the infallibility of 
success. It is so certain that you will be perfect, if you 
live always looking at God and observing that He is look- 
ing at you, that from that point you may give yourself 
out for such. For as the stars from the aspect of the 
sun, which they have present and to which they look, 
draw light to shine within and without themselves, and 
virtue to influence the earth ; so just men, who are as stars 
in the Church of God, from the aspect of God, from seeing 
Him as present and turning their thought and desire to 
Him, draw light whereby they shine with true and solid 
virtues in their interior, which God sees, and on the ex- 
terior, which men see ; they shine with all decency and 
comeliness, and draw virtue and force to edify and advance 
others. There is nothing that illustrates so well the need 
that we have of keeping ever in the presence of God as 
this comparison. Mark the dependence that the moon has 
on the sun, and the need that it has of keeping ever before 
it. The moon of itself has no light, but only what it 
receives from the sun according to the aspect wherewith 
it regards it. It works on sublunary bodies according to 
the light which it receives from the sun, and so the effects 
wrought on them wax and wane according to the waxing 
and waning of the moon. And if any object gets in front 
of the moon, so as to disturb the aspect and sight of the 
sun, in that instant at once the moon is eclipsed, and loses 
its light and splendour, and withal great part of its efficacy 
to work, which it holds by means of the light. The soul 
stands in the same relation to God, who is its Sun. 

This is why the Saints so much recommend to us this 
practice. St. Ambrose and St. Bernard, speaking of the 
constancy and perseverance which we should have in it, 
say that as there is no instant or moment in which man 
does not enjoy the bounty and mercy of God, so there 
should not be any instant or moment in which he does not 


keep God present in his memory. Sicut nullum est mo- 
mentum, quo homo non utatur vel fruatur Dei bonitate et 
misericordia, sic nullum debet esse momentum quo eum 
praesentem non habeat in memoria. And elsewhere St. 
Bernard says, " In all his actions and in all his thoughts 
the Religious should endeavour to remember that he is 
in the presence of God ; and all the time that he is not 
thinking of God he should hold for lost : God never for- 
gets us : it would be right that we should try never to 
forget Him." St. Augustine on the verse, I will fix mine 
eyes upon thee (Ps. 31), says : ..." Lord, I will not turn my 
eyes away from Thee, since Thou never turnest Thine from 
me." And the prophet : Mine eyes are ever fixed on the 
Lord (Ps. 24). St. Gregory Nazianzen says our remem- 
brance of God should be as often and as frequent as our 
breathing, and even more : non tarn saepe respirdre quam 
Dei meminisse deb emus. For as we need to breathe to 
refresh the heart and temper the natural heat, so we need 
to have recourse to God in prayer to restrain the dis- 
orderly ardour of concupiscence, which keeps stimulating 
and exciting us to sin. 


In what this practice of walking always in the presence 
of God consists 

That we may be able better to profit by this practice, it 
is necessary to explain in what it consists. It consists in 
two points, that is, in two acts, one of the understanding, 
the other of the will. The first act is that of the under- 
standing, which is always required and presupposed for 
any act of the will, as philosophy teaches. The first thing 
then must be to consider with the understanding that God 
is here and in every place, that He fills the whole world, 
that He is whole in the whole, and whole in every part 
and in every creature, how small soever it be.. Of this 
we should make an act of faith, since this is a truth that 
faith proposes for our belief, He is not far from each one 
of us, since in him we live and move and have our being 



tr. vi 

(Acts xvii. 27, 28). You must not imagine God as far from 
you, or outside of you, since He is within you. "I sought, 

Lord," says St. Augustine, " outside of me Him whom 

1 held within me." He is within you : God is within me 
with a more intimate and inward presence than that where- 
by I am in myself : in Him we live and move and have our 
being. It is He who gives life to all that lives, and 
strength to all that has power, and being to all that has 
being. But for His sustaining presence, all things would 
cease to be, and fall back into nothing. Then consider 
that you are in God, surrounded and encompassed by God, 
swimming in God. Those words, Heaven and earth are 
full of thy glory (Isai. vi. 3), are very good words to 
express this. 

Some may help themselves further herein by considering 
the whole world full of God, as indeed it is, and imagining 
themselves in the midst of this infinite sea of Godhead, 
surrounded and encompassed therewith as a sponge would 
be in the midst of the sea, all soaked and full of water 
within, and all surrounded and encompassed with water 
on all sides without. And this is not a bad comparison 
for our limited understanding, though it falls far short and 
wants much of declaring what we mean. For this sponge 
in the midst of the sea, if it rises up strikes the surface, 
and if it sinks down strikes the bottom, and if it is carried 
to one side or the other it strikes the shore, but in God 
there is nothing of that. If I ascend into heaven, thou 
art there ; if I go down into hell, thou art there ; if I take 
wings in the morning, and fix my abode on the furthest 
verge of the sea, there also thy hand shall guide me and 
thy right hand shall hold me (Ps. 138). There is no end 
or boundary to God, because He is immense and infinite. 
And further, as the sponge after all is a body, it cannot 
be entirely penetrated by the water, which is another body ; 
but we are entirely and all throughout penetrated by God, 
who is a pure spirit. But after all, these and other the 
like comparisons, though they fall short, are helpful and 
good to give us to understand in some sort the infinite 
immensity of God, and His intimate presence within us; 
and therefore St. Augustine alleges them. 

Nevertheless it is to be observed on this practice that, 


to realise this presence of God, it is not necessary to form 
any idea or representation of God by means of the imagina- 
tion, fancying that He is here at our side or in any Other 
definite place, or to imagine Him having such or such 
form and figure. There are those who imagine Jesus 
Christ our Redeemer in front of them or by their side, 
and that He goes with them and is ever looking at them 
in all that they do, and in this manner they walk always 
in the presence of God. And of these, some imagine they 
see before them Christ crucified, others as bound to the 
pillar, others in the prayer in the. garden sweating drops 
of blood, others in some other stage of the Passion, or in 
some Joyful Mystery of His most holy life, according to 
what strikes each of them most ; or at one time they 
imagine Him in some stage, at another in another. And 
although this is very good, if it can be done, yet com- 
monly speaking it is not' what is best for us, since all 
these figures and imaginations of bodily things are weari- 
some and fatiguing and go far to break people's heads. 
A St. Bernard and a St. Bonaventure must have known 
how to do this sort of thing differently from us, and find 
in it much ease and relief. Thus they entered into those 
gaping wounds of Christ and found their way into His 
side, and that was their fortress and their refuge and their 
place of repose, thinking they heard those words of the 
Spouse in the Canticles : Arise, my love, my beautiful one, 
and come, my dove who dwellest in the holes of the rock 
and in the hollow of the wall (Cant. ii. 13). At other 
times they imagined the foot of the Cross planted in their 
heart, and received in their mouth with the greatest sweet- 
ness some drops of the Blood that ran and streamed from 
the fountains of the Saviour. Ye shall draw waters with 
joy from the fountains of the Saviour (Isai. xii. 3). It was 
all very well for those Saints to do this and they found 
much good in the exercise; but if you were to try to spend 
the whole day in these considerations and in this presence 
of God, you might carry on in this manner for one day 
or one month, but you would lose a whole year of prayer, 
because you would break your head over it. • 
The reasonableness of this remark will well appear from 
this fact. Even for making the composition of place, 



TR. vi 

which is one of the preludes to meditation, whereby we 
try to render present to ourselves the subject of our medi- 
tation, imagining the event actually to be happening 
before our eyes, writers on prayer observe that the imagi- 
nation must not be drawn on too much in representing 
the shape of these corporeal things thought of ; not to 
break your head and come in for other awkward conse- 
quences and illusions that may happen thereby. Now if 
for a prelude to meditation, which is done in so short a 
time, calmly and at leisure, without involving anything 
else that requires attention, so much wariness and caution 
is necessary, what must it be to endeavour all day long, 
and in the midst of other occupations, to preserve this 
composition ? 

But this presence of God, which we speak of here, 
excludes all these imaginations and considerations, and 
is very far removed from them, since in the first place 
it is not necessary to feign that He is here, but to believe 
it, since such is the truth. Christ our Redeemer, inas- 
much as He is Man, is in heaven and in the Blessed Sacra- 
ment of the Altar, but He. is not in every place ; and so 
when we imagine Christ present as Man, it is an imagina- 
tion that we frame to ourselves ; but as God He is present 
here, and in me, and in every place, He fills it all. The 
Spirit of the Lord hath filled the round of the earth 
(Wisd. i. 7). We have no need to imagine what is not, 
only to rouse ourselves and believe what is. Secondly, 
the Humanity of Christ our Lord may be imagined and 
figured by the imagination, since He has a body and a 
figure ; but God as God cannot be imagined or figured as 
He is, because He. has neither body nor figure, but is a 
pure spirit. Even an angel we cannot imagine as he is, 
nor our own soul either, because it is a spirit : how much 
less can we imagine or visualise. God as He is ! 

But how are we to consider God as present ? I say that 
we can do no more than make an act of faith, presuppos- 
ing that God is here present, without seeking to know how 
or in what manner, as St. Paul says Moses did : Invisi- 
bilem tanquam videns sustinebat. God being invisible, he 
considered and held him present as if he saw him (Heb. 
xi. 27), without seeking to know or imagine the way in 

CH. Ill 



which He is present. It is as when one converses with a 
friend at night, without dwelling on the manner of his 
presence, nor remembering that at all, but simply rejoic- 
ing and delighting in the conversation and presence of 
such a friend. In this manner we must consider God as 
present: it is enough to know that God is here as our 
friend to rejoice in Him. Stay not to look how He is 
present, a thing that you will never make out, because it 
is now night-time for us : hope for the day dawning; and 
when the morrow of the next life comes, then God will 
discover Himself, and we shall be able to see Him clearly 
as He is. When he shall appear, then we shall be like 
him, because we shall see him as he is (1 John iii. 2). There- 
fore did God appear to Moses in the cloud and shade, that 
you may not see Him, but only believe that He is present. 

All that we have said so far belongs to the first act of 
the understanding, which must be presupposed. But we 
need to observe that the main part of this exercise does 
not consist in that : for not only must the understanding 
be occupied in beholding God present, but the will also 
must be occupied in desiring and loving God, and uniting 
itself with Him; and in these acts of the will this exer- 
cise chiefly consists, of which we shall speak in the fol- 
lowing chapter. 


Of the acts of the will, in which this exercise chiefly 
consists, and how we are to practise them 

St. Bonaventure in his Mystical Theology says that the 
acts of the will whereby we are to raise up our hearts to 
God in this holy exercise are ardent desires of the heart, 
wherewith the soul desires to unite herself to God imper- 
fect love,— they are inflamed affections, — they are lively 
sighs which we heave from our innermost being, crying 
thereby to God, — they are pious and loving affections of 
the will, spiritual wings, as it were, by which the will 
takes flight extending itself upwards, rising further and 
further to union with God. These vehement and inflamed 



TR. Vi 

desires and affections of the heart are called by the Saints 
' aspirations, ' because by them the soul lifts itself up to 
God, which is the same thing- as to aspire after God ; and 
also, as St. Bonaventure says, in the same way as by 
breathing' we heave out breath from the interior of our 
body, without thinking about it, so without thinking, or 
almost without thinking, we heave out these inflamed 
desires from the interior of our heart. A man gives 
expression to these aspirations and desires by short and 
frequent prayers, which are called ejaculations, " thrown 
out rapidly," raptim faculatas, says St. Augustine, 
because they are as fiery darts and arrows, coming forth 
from the heart, and in an instant shot out and sent up to 
God. The monks of Egypt, as Cassian says, made great 
use of these prayers, and set great value on them, partly 
because being short they do not tire the head, and again 
because being made with fervour and elevation of spirit 
they find their way in an instant into the presence of God, 
and leave no room for the devil to disturb him who makes 
them, nor raise any obstacle in the heart. St. Augustine 
says some words worthy of the consideration of authors 
who treat of prayer : " That watchful and lively attention, 
which is necessary to pray with due reverence and respect, 
is not here relaxed and lost, as commonly happens in 
long prayers." By means of these ejaculatory prayers 
those holy monks succeeded in continually keeping up this 
exercise, lifting up their hearts very frequently to God, 
treating and conversing with Him. 

This method of walking in the presence of God is com- 
monly more appropriate for us, easier and more profitable : 
but it will be needful to explain more, at length the practice 
of this exercise. Cassian puts it in this verse : Come 
unto my aid, O God; O Lord, make haste to help me 
(Ps. 69) ; which the Church repeats at the beginning of 
every canonical hour. At the beginning of every business 
that has any danger in it, beg God to help you to come 
well out of it, using these words. In all things we need 
the Lord's favour, and therefore we should be always 
asking it. Cassian says that this verse is marvellously 
well suited to express our sentiments in whatsoever state 
or occasion or happening we see ourselves. By it we in- 


voke the help of God ; by it we humble ourselves, and 
acknowledge our need and misery; by it we brace our- 
selves up, and trust in being heard and favoured by God; 
by it we kindle in ourselves the love of the Lord, who is 
pur refuge, and protector. For all the combats and temp- 
tations that may come in your way, you have here a strong 
shield, an impenetrable coat of mail, an impregnable wall. 
Thus you should ever have this ejaculation on your mouth 
and in your heart : it should be your perpetual and con- 
tinual prayer, and your means of walking ever in the 
presence of God. St. Basil puts the practice of this virtue 
in taking occasion of all things to remember God. Are you 
eating? Give thanks to God. Are you dressing? Give 
thanks to God. Do yOu walk out into the field or the 
garden? Bless God, who has created it. Do you look up 
to the sky? Do you look at the sun, and all the rest? 
Praise the Creator of it all. When you sleep, every time 
you awake, bless God. 

Others, seeing that in the spiritual life there are three 
ways ; one purgative, for beginners ; another illuminative, 
proper to those who are making progress ; a third tinitive, 
proper to the perfect; assign three sorts of aspirations and 
ejaculatory prayers. The first is for those whose object 
is to obtain pardon for their sins, and rid their soul of 
vices and earthly affections ; and they belong to the purga- 
tive way. The second is for those who are aiming at 
gaining virtues, and overcoming temptations, and em- 
bracing difficulties and labours for virtue's sake; and they 
belong to the illuminative way. The third is for those 
who aim at attaining to the union of their soul with God 
by the bond of perfect love ; and they belong to the unitive 
way. These authors wish each one to practise this exer- 
cise according to the state and condition in which he finds 
himself. But as for that, however perfect any one may 
be, he may well exercise himself in sorrow for his sins, 
and begging God's pardon for them and grace never more 
to offend Him, and that will be a very good exercise, and 
very pleasing to God. And he who is engaged in cleansing 
his soul of vices and disorderly passions, and gaining 
virtues, may all the same exercise himself in love of God, 
in order to gain that same end with greater ease and 



tr. vi 

sweetness. And all may practise this exercise, some- 
times with these acts : ' O Lord, would that I had never 
offended Thee' : 'Never permit me, Lord, to offend Thee' : 
' To die, yes, but not to sin ' : ' May I rather die a thou- 
sand deaths than fall into mortal sin. ' At other times 
one may raise up one's heart to God, giving Him thanks 
for benefits received, general and particular, or begging 
for sundry virtues, now a profound humility, now obedi- 
ence, now charity, now patience. At other times one may 
raise one's heart to God with acts of love and conformity 
to His most holy will, as by saying : My beloved to me, 
and I to him (Cant. ii. 16) : Not my will, but thine be 
done (Luke xxii. 42) : What is there for me in heaven, and 
away from thee what have I desired on earth? (Ps. 72). 
These and the like are very good aspirations and ejacu- 
latory prayers to enable one to walk always in this exercise 
of the presence of God. But the best and most effectual 
are generally those, that the heart conceives of itself, when 
moved by God, though they be not couched in words so 
well composed and orderly as those that we have quoted. 
Nor is it necessary either to have a multitude and variety 
of these prayers, since one single ejaculation, repeated 
frequently and with great affection, may suffice for one 
to carry on this exercise many days, and even for a whole 
lifetime. If you find you get on well with ever saying 
those words of the Apostle, Lord, what wouldst thou have 
me to do? (Acts ix. 6), or those of the Spouse, My be- 
loved to me, and I to him (Cant. ii. 16), or those of the 
prophet, What have I, Lord, to desire in heaven or earth 
but thee? (Ps. 72), you need no more : stay and entertain 
yourself therein, and let that be your continual exercise 
of walking in the presence of God. 


Further explanation of this exercise, and a method 
of walking in the presence of God very easy and 
profitable and leading to great perfection 

Among other aspirations and ejaculatory prayers that 
we may use, the chiefest and most suitable for the prac- 
tice of this exercise is that which the Apostle teaches : 
Whether ye eat or drink, or whatever else ye do, do all 
for the glory of God (i Cor. x. 31). Now you eat, now 
you drink, now you do something else, do all for the glory 
of God. Contriye in all things that you do, as frequently 
as you can, to lift up your heart to God saying : ' For 
Thee, O Lord, I do this, to satisfy and please Thee, be- 
cause Thou so wiliest it : Thy will, O Lord, is my will, 
and Thy satisfaction my satisfaction : I will nothing and 
reject nothing but what Thou wiliest or rejectest : this is 
all my joy and all my satisfaction and delight, the accom- 
plishment of Thy will, to please and satisfy Thee : I have 
nothing else to wish or desire, or set my eyes on, in heaven 
or on earth.' This is an excellent way of living ever in 
the presence of God, very easy and profitable and carrying 
high perfection, since it is living in the continual exer- 
cise of the love of God. Here I will only add that this is 
one of the best and most profitable methods there are, of 
all that we can take up, of living in perpetual prayer. 
Nothing else would seem to be wanting, completely to 
canonise and extol this exercise, but to say that thereby we 
shall practise that continual prayer which Christ our Lord 
asks of us in the Gospel : We must always pray, and never 
give up (Luke xviii. 1). For what better prayer can there 
be than to be ever desiring the greater glory and honour 
of God, ever conforming oneself to His will, willing 
nothing and rejecting nothing but what God wills and 
rejects, and placing all one's joy and satisfaction in the 
joy and satisfaction of God ? 

Therefore a Doctor says, and with good reason, that he 
who shall persevere diligently in this exercise of these in- 




ward affections and desires will derive such benefit from 
them that in a short time he will feel his heart vastly 
altered and changed, and will find in himself a particular 
aversion for the world and a singular affection for God. 
Ye are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow- 
citizens of the saints and domestics of the house of God 
(Eph. ii. 19). This is beginning to be citizens of heaven 
and henchmen of the house of God. These are these lords 
in waiting that St. John saw in the Apocalypse, who had 
the name of God written on their foreheads, that is, the 
continual memory and presence of God. And they shall 
see his face, and have his name written on their foreheads 
(Apoc. xxii. 4), for all their dealing and conversation is 
now no longer on earth, but in heaven. Fixing our gaze 
not on the things that are seen, but on the things that are 
not seen, for the things that are seen are temporal, but the 
things that are unseen are eternal (2 Cor. iv. 18). 

It is to be observed in this exercise that when we make 
these acts, saying, ' For Thee, Lord, I do this, for Thy 
love, and because Thou so requirest,' and the like, we 
should make them and say them as speaking to God 
present, and not as lifting up our heart and thought far 
away from ourselves and out of ourselves. This obser- 
vation is of great importance in this exercise, because this 
is properly walking in the presence of God, and this it is 
that makes this exercise sweet and easy, and mOves and 
profits us more. Even in other prayers, when we meditate 
on Christ on the cross or at the pillar, writers on prayer 
advise us not to imagine this taking place there in Jerusa- 
lem, a thousand and so many years ago, because that is 
more wearisome and not so impressive ; but we must 
imagine it in the present, going on there before our eyes, 
and that we hear the blows of the whips and the ham- 
mering in of the nails. And if we make the meditation on 
death, they say that we should imagine that we are now 
to die, given up by the doctors, and with the blest candle 
in our hand. How much more reason will there be in this 
exercise of the presence of God to make the acts that we 
have said, not as speaking with One absent and away 
from us, but as speaking with God present, because the 
exercise itself requires it, and in sober truth it is so. 


Of some differences and advantages which this par- 
ticular exercise of walking always in the presence of 
God has over others 

To evidence the perfection and profit of this particular 
exercise, and further to declare the same, we will men- 
tion some points in which it differs, and differs for the 
better, from other methods. In the first place, in other 
methods, which some are wont to bring forward, of walk- 
ing in the presence of God, all seems to be an act of the 
understanding, and all seems to end in imagining God 
present; but in our method the act of understanding and 
of faith in God's presence is presupposed, and the soul 
passes on to make acts of the love of God, wherein our 
exercise principally consists; and it is clear that this is 
better and more profitable than the former. As in prayer we 
have said that we should not dwell on the act of the 
understanding, that is the meditation and consideration 
of things, but on the act of the will, which consists in 
affections and desires of virtue and of the imitation of 
Christ, and this should be the fruit of the prayer ; so here 
the principal thing in this exercise, and the best and the 
most profitable, lies in the acts of the will, and that is the 
thing we ought to lay stress on. 

The second conclusion that follows is, that this act is 
easier and pleasanter than the others, because in the 
others there is need of discussion and labour of the un- 
derstanding and imagination to set things forth and repre- 
sent them, — a thing that is apt to weary people and break 
their heads, and so cannot be kept up so long ; but in this 
exercise there is no need of such discussion, but solely 
of affections and acts of the will, which are made without 
fatigue. For though it is true that there is here also some 
act of the understanding, yet that is presupposed by faith 
without our fatiguing ourselves over it, as when we adore 
the Blessed Sacrament, we presuppose by faith that Christ 
our Saviour is there, yet all our attention and occupation 
24 369 




is in adoring, reverencing, loving, and asking favours of 
the Lord whom we know to be there; and so it is in this 
exercise. And by reason of its being easier one. can hold 
on and persevere in it a longer time. So also with sick 
people, who cannot otherwise make their prayer, we are 
wont to counsel them to raise their heart to God repeatedly 
with some acts and affections of the will, because that they 
can do with ease. Thus, though there were no other 
advantage in this exercise but this of our being able to 
hold on and persevere in it longer than in others, we 
should value it much ; how much more seeing that there 
are in it so many other advantages. 

The third and principal thing, and a thing much to be 
taken notice of, is that the presence of God is not merely 
for us to dwell upon in thought, but to be a means for us to 
do our ordinary actions well. If we were to content our- 
selves with merely paying attention to God as present, and 
thereby grow negligent in our duties and commit faults in 
them, that Would be no good devotion, but an illusion. We 
must always make up our minds that, though with one eye 
we deal with His Divine Majesty, we are to fix the other on 
doing our works well for Him. The reflection that we are 
in the. presence of God should be to us a motive for 
doing well and with greater perfection all that we do; 
and this is done much better by this exercise than by 
others. In other exercises the understanding is much oc- 
cupied with those corporeal figures which we endeavour 
to set before us, and by the thoughts that we seek to draw 
from what is before us ; now to draw out a good thought, 
a man often does not look well what he is doing, and 
so does it badly ; but this exercise, involving no occupation 
of the understanding, nowise hinders the doing of our 
duties, but rather is a great aid to our doing them well, 
because we are doing them for the love of God and before 
God, who is looking at us. So we. endeavour to do them 
in such manner and so well that they may be fit to appear 
before the eyes of His Divine Majesty, and have nothing 
in them unworthy of His presence. 




The importance of examination of conscience 

One of the principal and most efficacious means for our 
spiritual advancement is examination of conscience; and 
as such the Saints recommend it. St. Basil, who was one 
of the. earliest instructors to give rules for monks, com- 
mands them to make this examination every night. St. 
Augustine in his Rule commands the same. St. Antony 
Abbot taught and commended it much to his Religious. : 
so do St. Bernard and St. Bonaventure and Cassian and 
commonly all. The blessed St. Chrysostom, on those 
words of the Royal Prophet David : Have compunction 
and shame for your sins upon your beds (Ps. 4), treats of 
this examination, and advises its being made every night 
before we go to bed, for which he gives two good reasons. 
The first for the day following, that we may find ourselves 
better disposed and prepared not to sin, nor to fall into 
the faults into which we have fallen to-day, because to-day 
we have examined ourselves and repented of them, and 
made a purpose of amendment, which clearly will be a 
check upon us not to commit them again on the morrow. 
The second for the day itself : even to-day it will be some 
check upon us to have to examine ourselves at night, for 
the consciousness that we have, to render an account and 
have our conduct overhauled that same day, will make us 
behave advisedly and live with greater reserve. As a 
master, says St. Chrysostom, does not allow his steward 
to fail to give in his accounts day by day, that there may 
be no chance of his being careless and forgetful and his 
reckoning thereupon going wrong, so also it will be rea- 
sonable for us to call ourselves to account every day, that 
negligence and may not throw the accounts 



St. Ephrem and St. John Climacus add a third reason, 
and say that as diligent merchants every day make a 
computation, and reckon the losses and gains of that day ; 
and if they find any loss are very careful to make it up ; 
so we should every day examine and take account of our 
losses and gains, that the loss may not go on increasing 
and swallow up the capital, but may be made good and 
remedied at once. St. Dorotheus adds another great ad- 
vantage, which is, that by dint of examining ourselves 
and pulling ourselves up every day for our faults the vice 
and passion does not take root in us, and grow into a 
habit and evil custom. On the other hand they say of 
the soul that is not careful to examine herself that she 
is like the vineyard of the sluggard, of which the Wise 
Man says : I passed by the field of the sluggard and the 
vineyard of the fool, and lo it was all full of nettles, and 
the ground covered with thorns, and the stone wall was 
broken down (Prov. xxiv. 30). Such is the soul that 
makes no account of examining her conscience, she is 
like an uncultivated vineyard, full of brambles and briers. 
This evil earth of our flesh never ceases to send up sundry 
evil weeds, and so it is ever necessary to go, hoe in hand, 
hoeing- and rooting out the weeds and tares that are 
sprouting. The examen serves this purpose of a hoe, to 
make a clearance and root out the vice and evil propensity 
that was beginning to sprout, and not let it go further or 
take root. 

Not only the Saints but even the heathen philosophers 
knew by the light of natural reason the importance and 
efficacy of this means. That great philosopher Pytha- 
goras, as St. Jerome and St. Thomas relate, among 
other instructions that he gave to his disciples gave them 
this as a main point, that every one should have two 
times marked out, one in the morning and one at night, 
at which to examine himself and take account of three 
things, — what have I done? how have I done it? and 
what have I left undone of what I ought to do?, — re- 
joicing over what was good, and grieving over what was 
evil. Seneca, Plutarch, Epictetus and others, recom- 
mended the same. 

Our Blessed Father Ignatius, resting on the doctrine 


CH. 1 



of the Saints and on reason and experience, recommends 
to us examination of conscience as one of the chiefest 
and most effectual means that we can employ on our 
part for our improvement. And he gave us a rule there- 
on : " Let it be their practice every day to examine their 
consciences." And elsewhere he says that this should be 
done twice a day. And in some sort he esteemed this 
examination more than meditation, because by the aid of 

examen we put in execution the resolutions we drew from 

meditation, to the mortification of our passions and the 
extirpation of our vices and defects. And so much 
account is made of it in the Society, that we are called to 
it twice a day by sound of the bell, once in the morning 
and again at night, and we are visited at examen as at 
meditation, that none may omit making it either in the 
morning or at night. And our Father was not content 
that we ourselves should practise this examination, but he 
would have us persuade those with whom we deal to do 
the same. So the good workmen of the Society, in deal- 
ing with any one, at once teach him to make the general 
examination of conscience, and also the particular examen 
in order to get rid of any bad habit,— such as swearing, 
lying, cursing, or the like. Such was the practice of our 
first Fathers, as we read of Father Peter Faber that this 
was one of the first devotions that he gave to those with 
whom he dealt. And we read of our blessed Father that, 
not content with giving this method of the particular 
examen to any one whom he. wished to cure of any vice, 
he took means not to let him forget to put it in practice. 
He made him before dinner and before bed-time give an 
account to some confidential agent, whom he assigned to 
him, and tell him if he had made the examen, how he 
made it, and whether he had made it in the manner ap- 
pointed. And we know also that he kept his first com- 
panions for a long time with no other support than that 
of examinations of conscience and freqiientation of the 
Sacraments, thinking that, if that was done, it would be 
quite enough to preserve them in virtue., 

Hence we should gather great esteem and appreciation 
of this practice of examining our consciences twice every 
day, as being a most important and efficacious means 



tr. vii 

towards our spiritual progress. We should accordingly 
practise it every day, and the day that we fail therein we 
should consider that we have failed in one of the chief est 
points of our Religion. We should hold no occupation 
sufficient to justify our omitting this examen; and if 
through any unavoidable occupation we have not been 
able to make it at the appointed hour, we should take 
care to make it as soon as possible, say, the first thing 
of all after dinner. Even sickness and indisposition, 
which is sufficient to excuse us from any long prayer, 
should not excuse us from making our examens. Thus 
it is right for all to hold as a first principle, that the 
examens must never be omitted, neither the general nor 
the particular. An invalid has plenty of matter on which 
to make his particular examen, for instance, on conform- 
ing himself to the will of God in the sickness and pains 
that He sends, and the remedies ordered by the doctor, 
which sometimes are more painful than the illness itself ; 
or on bearing with patience the neglect that he fancies 
people have of him ; or on being indifferent and resigned 
to live or die as God pleases. 


On what subjects the particular examen should be 


We. have two examens in the Society, one particular, 
the other general. The particular examen is made on 
one subject only ; the general is made on all the faults 
that we have committed that day in thought, word and 
deed ; and that is why it is called general, because it 
embraces all. We will speak first of the particular 
examen, and then say briefly what is to be added con- 
cerning the general, because many things have to be done 
alike both in general and in particular, and what shall 
be said of the particular will serve also for the general. 
We will deal with two things concerning this examen : 
first, on what subjects it should be made; secondly, how 
it should be made. 

ch. ii 



Touching the first point, that we may understand to 
what subjects we should principally apply this examen, 
there is to be carefully noted one rule and direction that 
our Father gives in his book of Spiritual Exercises, and 
he has it from St. Bonaventure. He says that the devil 
conducts himself towards us like a commander who is 
minded to attack and capture a city or fortress. He goes 
about with all diligence to reconnoitre first of all the 
weakest point of the fortification, and there he concen- 
trates all his artillery and employs all his forces, though 
it be at the risk of great loss of life, because if he can 
batter that part down, he is sure to gain an entrance and 
take the city. So the devil takes measures to reconnoitre 
in us the weakest part of our soul, to assail and over-r 
come us there. This then should serve as a warning to 
us to be beforehand and on our guard against our enemy. 
We must look at and recognise attentively the weakest 
part of our soul, the part most destitute of virtue, which 
is that to which natural inclination, or passion, or bad 
custom, or evil habit most carries us, and there we must 
keep better watch and ward. The Saints and Masters of 
spiritual life say that this should be our chief endeavour, 
with special care and diligence to root out from within us 
this vice, because this is where our want is greatest, and 
chiefly to this we should apply the particular examen. 

Cassian gives two reasons for this : the first is because 
this weakness it is that generally puts us into the greatest 
dangers and makes us fall into the greatest faults, and 
therefore it is reasonable, that we should apply there our 
greatest care and diligence. The second is because once 
we have conquered and subdued our strongest enemies, 
that make the most serious war upon us, we shall easily 
overcome and strike down the rest. The soul is braced 
up and strengthened by the sense of triumph and victory, 
and the enemy proportionately weakened. Cassian quotes 
to this effect the example of certain games, that formerly 
took place in Rome in presence of the Emperor, where 
they brought out many wild beasts for men to fight with ; 
and they who wished to signalise themselves more, and 
give pleasure to the Emperor, made first for that animal 
which they saw to be' the strongest and most ferocious, 


reckoning that when that was conquered and dead, they 
should have an easy triumph over the rest. So he says 
we should act. We. see by experience that commonly 
each one has a sort of King Vice that carries him away 
for the great inclination that he has to it. There are 
certain passions that are called predominant, which seem 
to lord it over us and make us do what otherwise we would 
not do. So you hear some people say :'If I had not this, 
I think there is nothing that would embarrass me or give 
me trouble.' This then we should attend to most in our 
particular examen. 

In the war that the King of Syria waged against the 
King of Israel, Holy Scripture tells us (2 Chron. xviii. 30) 
that he gave command to all the captains of his army 
not to fight against any one, great or small, but only 
against the King of Israel, thinking that in overcoming 
the King he overcame the whole army. And so it turned 
out : for when King Achab was struck with an arrow, shot 
at random on the chance of hitting some one, the battle 
was over. That is what we have to do : overcome this 
King Vice, because thereupon all the rest of the crew will 
readily give in : cut off the head of this giant Goliath, and 
at once all the other Philistines will be routed and fly. 
This is the best general rule for every one to understand 
on what he ought to make this examen. 

But in particular one of the best pieces of advice that 
can be given in this matter is for every one to confer with 
his confessor and spiritual father, having first given him 
an entire account of his conscience, of all his inclinations, 
passions, affections and bad habits, without there remain- 
ing anything that he does not lay open : for in this way 
every one's need and particular circumstances being seen 
and understood, it will be easy to determine on what point 
it will be proper to make the particular examen. And 
one of the principal things that are to be mentioned in 
giving an account of conscience is on what the particular 
examen is made, and what profit is derived from it, as is 
laid down in the rules of the Prefect of Spiritual Things, 
and the Instruction we have on this subject. It is very 
important for every one to succeed in making the particu- 
lar examen on what is most suitable for him. As a 

ch. iii 



physician has effected not a little, but a great deal, when 
he has diagnosed the root of the illness, because then he 
will hit upon the right remedies, and the medicines will 
take effect ; so we have achieved not a little, but a great 
deal, if we hit upon the. root of our infirmities and ail- 
ments, because that to hit upon the cure, of them 
by applying the remedy and medicine of the examen. 
One of the reasons why many make little profit of their 
examen is because they do not apply it where'they ought 
to apply it. If you cut the root of the tree and tear up the 
weed by the roots, all the rest will soon wither and die; 
but if you go for the branches and leave the. root, it will 
soon sprout and grow again. 


Of two important pieces of advice how to hit upon and 
choose the right subject for particular examen 

Coming down more to particulars, two principal things 
are to be noted here. The first is that when there are 
exterior faults that offend and disedify our brethren, that 
is the first thing that we should try to abolish by means 
of the particular examen, even though there be other 
interior things of more importance. Thus if one. has a 
fault in conversation, either by talking too much, or speakr 
ing impatiently and angrily, or uttering words that may 
wound one's brother, or possibly words of detraction that 
may give one man a bad opinion of another, or the like, 
reason and charity require that we should first get rid of 
these faults that are apt to offend and disedify our breth- 
ren, and contrive to live and converse with them in 
such manner as to give no one cause of complaint against 
us. So the holy gospel says of the parents of the glorious 
Baptist: They were both just before God, living in the 
observance of all the commandments and ordinances of 
the Lord without blame (Luke i. 6). They were just be- 
fore God, and lived blamelessly before men. This' is 
great praise of a servant of God, and one of the things 


that a Religious living in community should endeavour to 
make sure of. It is not enough to be just before God, 
but you must try to make sure that your way of going on 
in Religion be such that none may have any ground of 
complaint against you. Without blame; so that none 
may have to say of you, ' a very good fellow but for so 
and so. ' So if there is anything that may give offence, it 
is there that the particular examen should start. 

But in the second place it is to be observed that we must 
not go our whole life making particular examen on these 
exterior things, for they are easier and more in our power 
than the interior. St. Augustine says very well : " I 
command my hand, and it obeys me : I command my foot, 
and it obeys me : but I command my appetite, and it 
obeys me not." It is clear that hand and foot are more 
obedient than appetite, since they have no proper motion 
of their own to the contrary such as appetite has. So 
we must endeavour to get clear of these exterior things 
as soon as we can, and have done with them, that we may 
have time over for other and greater things, as to gain 
some main virtue or some higher perfection, — a most pro- 
found humility of heart, not only to the extent of thinking 
meanly of oneself, but going so far as to rejoice that others 
think meanly of one, and hold one of small account ; 
doing things purely for God, so far as to come to say what 
that holy cook said, " I never think that I am serving 
men, but serving God " (tr. 3, c. 9) ; a great conformity 
to the will of God in all, and so of the rest. For though 
it is true that the particular examen is properly and 
directly for the getting rid of faults and imperfections, 
and there is always in us store enough of matter for that, 
since so long as life lasts we cannot be without faults and 
venial sins, yet we must not go all our life at that. The 
time is very well spent that is taken up in weeding the 
flower-garden, yet it must not be all spent in clearing 
the soil of noxious and evil growths, but rather the pur- 
pose of this clearance is to plant good flowers. So the 
time is very well spent that is taken up during examens 
in rooting up the vicious and evil inclinations of our soul, 
but the purpose of all that is to plant therein good and 
fragrant flowers of virtues. Behold I have set thee up 

CH. Ill 



to-day to root up and destroy, to plough over arid eradi- 
cate, and to build and plant, said God to Jeremy (Jerem. 
i. 10). The first thing must be to break up and root out, 
but after that to build and plant. 

Especially so, since even for getting' rid of these same 
faults and imperfections it is sometimes well to make the 
particular examen on some higher virtue or perfection : 
this is often a more effectual means thereto, as well as a 
shorter and a more pleasant. Have you the fault of speak- 
ing to your brethren in an offhand manner and too freely ? 
Make your examen on taking all to be your betters and 
yourself for the least of all. That will tell you how you 
should address them, and how you should reply to them : 
you may rest quite assured that you will not speak to them 
any rough or biting word, if you attain to this humility. 
In the same way, do you feel repugnance and difficulty 
in trying circumstances that occur? Make your examen 
on taking all things that happen as coming from the hand 
of God, and by a particular arrangement and providence 
of His, and that He sends them to you for your greater 
good and profit ; and in this way you will do well under 
them. Do you fail in modesty, lightly rolling your eyes 
about and turning your head from one side to another, 
or being curious in wanting to know the news and enquir- 
ing into everything that passes? Make your examen on 
walking in the presence of God, and doing all things in 
such sort as they may appear to His august countenance, 
and you will soon find yourself modest, recollected and 
spiritual, and that without any fatigue, or seeming to lay 
much stress on the point. Otherwise, look how when 
you come out from a devout prayer, you have no mind to 
talk or look about you, because dealing and conversing 
with God makes you forget all that sort of thing. But 
if you wish to take and remedy all these exterior faults 
one after another, besides its being a very long and 
roundabout way, you will find that when you want to 
make examen, say, on modesty of the eyes, you will not 
be able to make it, and your head will ache in trying to 
put such restraint on yourself. So a Doctor finds fault 
with those spiritual directors who spend all their energies 
in warning you against those, exterior faults : he says 


that the chief care of a good master and pastor of souls 
should be to reform the heart, and make their disciple 
enter into himself, as Holy Scripture says of Moses : He 
led his flock into the interior oj the desert (Exod. iii. i). 
Busy yourself in reforming the heart, and everything else 
will soon be reformed. 

That the particular examen must be made on one thing 


The particular examen must always be made on one 
thing only, as the name itself implies. And the reason 
why it is proper to do so is because in this way the method 
is more effectual than if we made it on many things 
together : for it is clear, and natural reason teaches, that 
a man can do much more against one vice by itself than 
by taking many together, for he who clutches at much 
grasps little. This manner of overcoming our enemies, 
that is, our vices and passions, Cassian says, was taught 
us by the Holy Ghost instructing the children of Israel 
how to behave against those seven tribes and nations 
opposed to them, to overcome and destroy them. Thou 
canst not overcome them all together, but little by little 
God will give thee victory over them all (Deut. vii. 22). 
Cassian observes, as though answering a tacit objection, 
that there is no fear lest when a man turns his attention 
against one vice alone, and gives his chief care to that, 
the rest may do him much harm. First, because this 
very care taken to correct one particular vice will cause 
in his soul a great horror and abhorrence of all other 
vices for the common motive on which they all agree : 
thus going forearmed against this particular vice, he will 
go armed against them all. Secondly, because he who 
goes about his particular examen with care to root out 
that one evil thing, thereby cuts at the radical tendency 
there is in the heart to all other evil things, which is the 
license of letting oneself go after anything and every- 
thing that one likes. Thus the making of the particular 

ch. iv 


examen against one vice is fighting against all vices, since 
this check and vigilance employed on one particular serves 
also for the rest. We see in the case of a wild horse how 
drawing the bridle and giving him the check, that he may 
not be unruly and bolt down one way, serves also that he 
may not bolt down other ways* Add to this a third con- 
sideration, that every day also we make another examen, a 
general examen, which embraces all the rest. 

So far must the principle be carried of not making: the 
particular examen except upon one thing alone, that even 
in dealing with one vice, or one virtue, it is many times, 
and indeed most commonly better to divide it into parts 
and degrees, and to go little by little applying the par- 
ticular examen first to one part or degree, and then to 
another, so to be able better to attain the end desired; 
for if we were to take it in general^ all in a heap, we 
should effect nothing. Thus if one wishes to apply the 
particular examen to the rooting out of pride and vanity, 
and the gaining of humility, he must not take it in general 
thus, ' I intend to be proud in nothing, but humble in all 
things,' for that comprises much, indeed it would be at-, 
tempting more than if you were to make your particular 
examen on three or four things together, and sO there 
would be little gained for your clutching at too many 
things. What you have to do is to divide it into parts 
or degrees : in this way the enemies being divided and 
taken one at a time, they will be better overcome, and 
we shall come to gain more expeditiously what we desire. 

For the better putting of this in practice, we will set 
down here some main things on which the particular 
examen may be made, dividing them into parts and de- 
grees. And though for some virtues we have done this 
in special treatises, yet that it may be found all together 
in this its proper place, we will gather it together here, 
and we may also use it as a pattern and mirror, in which 
we may look and see whether we are getting on, and what 
is wanting to us to gain perfection. 

How to divide the particular examen according to the 
farts and degrees of virtues 

Of humility 

I. To utter no words that may redound to my own 
praise and reputation. 

II. Not to take pleasure in hearing myself praised and 
well spoken of, but rather thence to take occasion to 
humble and confound myself more, seeing that I am not 
such as others think, or such as I ought to be. To this 
may be added rejoicing when another is praised and 
spoken well of. And when I feel any resentment at this, 
or any movement of envy, to note it for a fault ; as also 
when I take any vain complacency or satisfaction at 
others speaking well of me. 

III. Never to act from human respect, or to gain the 
good opinion of men, or to be seen and esteemed by men, 
but purely for God. 

IV. Never to excuse myself, much less throw the blame 
on others whether in outward word or in my own mind. 

V. To cut off and lop away at once all vain, arrogant 
and proud thoughts that occur to me from things that 
touch my honour and reputation. 

VI. To take all others for my betters, not speculatively 
merely, but practically and in act, behaving to all with 
that humility and respect which I should show to 

VII. To take well the occasions of humility that come 
in my way. In this I should go on growing and advanc- 
ing by these three steps : (i) taking such occasions 
patiently ; (2) taking them readily and promptly ; (3) taking 
them cheerfully and with joy. And I must not stop until 
I come to be glad and rejoice in being disparaged and 
held in small account, to resemble and imitate Christ our 
Redeemer, who chose to be disparaged and held in small 
account for me. 

VIII. In this matter, and in others like it, the particular 


CH. V 



examen may be applied to making acts and doing prac- 
tices of humility, — or of any other virtue on which the 
particular examen is made. These acts and practices may 
be either interior or exterior. We should rouse ourselves 
to these acts so many times in the morning, and so many 
times in the afternoon. We should begin with fewer, 
and gradually add more, until the habit or custom is. 
gained of this particular virtue we are in quest of. 

Of fraternal charity 

I. To shun detraction or any mention of the fault of 
another, even though it be slight and public. Not to pull 
to pieces his doings, or show any sign of undervaluing 
him either in his presenee or in his absence ; but try to let 
it be. that for anything that proceeds from my mouth all 
men are good, honourable and estimable. 

II. Never to tell another, ' Jack says so and so of you,' 
when the matter is such as might cause annoyance, how- 
ever small it may be : for this were to sow discord and 
tares among brethren. 

III. Not to utter sarcastic words, or harsh and peevish 
words that might give pain to another. Not to be ob- 
stinate in maintaining a point, nor contradict another, nor 
rebuke him, unless you have charge of him. 

IV. To treat all with love and charity, and show it in 
act, trying to meet others' wants, assist and give them 
satisfaction so far as you can. This especially when you 
are in an office that obliges you to meet people's wants : 
to this you should give great attention; and whatever you 
cannot do in deed, make it up by a gracious manner and 
kind answers and words. 

V. To avoid any aversion for another, and still more 
to avoid showing it, as it would be by refusing to speak 
to him for some displeasure you had :conceived against 
him, or by refusing to meet his need when you might, or 
by giving any other sign that you have a grudge against 

VI. Not to behave to any particular person as you 
would not behave to any one else : to avoid familiarities 
and particular, friendships that give offence. 


VII. Not to pass judgment on any one, but rather try 
to excuse your neighbour's faults in your own thoughts 
and in company,— having a high opinion of all. 

Of mortification 

I. To mortify myself in things and occasions that offer 
without my going to seek them, whether they come im- 
mediately from God, or come by means of Superiors, or 
by means of neighbours and brethren, or in any other 
way, trying to bear them well and profit by them. 

II. To mortify myself and overcome myself in every- 
thing that is like to hinder me from keeping my rules, 
and doing my ordinary and daily duties well, spiritual as 
well as external : because all the faults that we commit 
therein come of our not overcoming and mortifying our- 
selves where there is question of taking some trouble, or 
of not abstaining from some pleasure and gratification. 

III. To mortify myself in conducting myself with the 
modesty that is to be expected of a Religious, especially 
as regards the eyes and tongue, when there might be any 
fault therein. 

IV. To mortify myself in sundry things that I might 
lawfully do, as by not leaving my room, by not seeing 
some curious sight, by not asking about or seeking to 
know what is no affair of mine, by not saying things that 
I have a mind to say, and the like. I am to apply the 
examen to making these acts of mortification so many in 
the morning and so many in the afternoon, beginning with 
fewer and gradually adding more, for the practice of these 
voluntary mortifications, though it be in little things, is 
very profitable. 

V. To mortify myself even in things that I am obliged 
to do, in this way ; when I go to meals, to study, to lec- 
ture, to preach, or any other duty that I have a liking for, 
to mortify first my appetite and will, saying in my heart : 
' I have no mind to do this, O Lord, for my own satis- 
faction, but because Thou wiliest it. ' 

Of abstinence or gluttony 

I. Not to eat anything before or after the common 
hour, nor away from the refectory. 


II. To be content with what is given to the Community, 
not seeking other dishes, nor the same dishes differently 
dressed : not accepting special food except for some 
known necessity. 

III. In these common things not to exceed the rule 
of temperance in point of quantity. 

IV. Not to eat with great eagerness, nor very hur- 
riedly, but with modesty and decency, not letting appetite 
run away with me. 

V. Never to speak of food, much less grumble or com- 
plain about it. 

VI. To cut short and stop all thoughts of gluttony. 

Of patience 

I. Not to give any outward sign of impatience, but 
rather to show great tranquillity in word and action, and 
in the cast of my countenance, repressing all impulses 
and emotions to -the contrary. 

II. Not to give place and entry into my heart for any 
perturbation, or resentment, or indignation, or sadness; 
much less any desire of revenge, though it be in a matter 
quite trifling. 

III. To take all events and occasions that occur as sent 
by the hand of God for my good and profit, in whatever 
manner or by whatever means or channel they come. 

IV. To go on exercising myself and bringing myself 
to act in this matter, first> by taking all things as they 
come with patience ; secondly, with promptitude and 
readiness ; thirdly, with delight and joy, as being the will 
of God. 

Of obedience 

I. To be exact in outward obedience, leaving the letter 
of the alphabet just begun ; meeting also the signification 
of the will of the Superior without waiting for an express 

II. To obey in will and heart, having one and the same 
wish and will as the Superior. 

III. To obey also with the understanding and judgment, 
adopting the same view and sentiment as the Superior, 



not giving plate to any judgments or reasonings to' the 

IV. To take the voice of the Superior and the sound of 
the bell as the voice of God, and obey the Superior, who- 
ever he be, as Christ our Lord, and the same for subor- 
dinate officials. 

V. To follow blind obedience, that is, obedience with- 
out enquiry or examination, or any seeking of reasons for 
the why and wherefore, it being reason enough for me 
that it is obedience and the command of the Superior. 

VI. To go on to acts of the will, exciting myself to 
believe when I obey that I am therein doing the will of 
God, and make that all my joy and satisfaction. 

Of poverty 

I. Not to give or receive from another, either within or 
without the house, anything without leave. 

II. Not to borrow or take anything from the house, or 
the room of another, without leave. 

III. Not to keep anything superfluous, stripping myself 
of all that is not necessary to me, as well in books and the 
furniture of my room, as in dress and food and everything 

IV. Even in the necessary things of which I have the 
use, I must make a point of showing myself a poor man, 
because such I , am, contriving that my things be the 
poorest, the plainest and of least value. Thus in my 
room, in my dress, in my food, and in all the rest the 
virtue of poverty is ever to shine out, and I am to let it 
be seen that I am a poor man ; desiring and rejoicing that 
the worst of the house be ever for me for my greater 
abnegation and spiritual profit. 

V. To rejoice that even in necessary things something 
is wanting to me, because this is to be a true and perfect 
poor man in spirit, and an imitator of Christ our Redeemer, 
who being so rich and powerful (2 Cor. viii. 9) made 
Himself poor for love of us. So do, I wish to feel want of 
even necessary things, suffering hunger, thirst, cold, 
weariness and nakedness. . 

ch. v THE RULE OF TOUCH 387 

Of chastity . ■ 

L To. practise modesty of the eyes, not looking- at per- 
sons or things that may be an incentive to temptation. 

II. Not to utter or listen to words touching on this 
matter, or that may awaken movements or evil thoughts, 
nor read such-like things. 

III. To give no place to any thoughts bearing on this 
matter; though it be very remotely, casting- them off 
with great diligence and promptness from .the very be- 

IV. Not to touch another .person even oft the hands, 
and much less on the face or head, nor allow myself to be 
touched. ■ 

V. To observe with myself much decency and modesty, 
not looking at myself, uncovering or touching myself, 
without absolute necessity. . ; 

VI. To have no particular friendships, neither, giving 
nor receiving little presents, or things to eat. And with 
persons who strike me and with whom I feel this affec- 
tion and inclination, to behave with great reserve, neatly 
shunning their intimacy and conversation, which is usually 
the only thing to be done in such cases, 

Of doing ordinary actions well 

I. Not to fail any day to do my spiritual duties com- 
pletely, giving them the full time allotted to them ; and 
when at that time there is some 'unavoidable- occupation to 
claim me, to make it up at another time. ! 

II; To make my meditation and my general and parti- 
cular examens well, observing the additions, and dwelling 
in my examens on sorrow and confusion for faults, and 
• purpose of amendment, rather than on examining how 
often I have fallen, for in this is the force and fruit of the 
examens, and for want of this some usually profit little 
thereby. ' ' ' 

III. To do any other spiritual duties well, as Mass, 
Office, Spiritual Reading, and penances, as well public 
as private, taking care to gather from them the end and 
fruit for which they are severally ordained, not doing 
therh out of custom, perfunctorily and for form's sake. 


IV. To do my office and discharge my ministries well, 
doing all that I can and all that rests with me that they 
may go well, as one who does things for God and in 
presence of God. 

V. Not to commit any deliberate fault. 

VI. To make great account of little things. 

VII. And because my progress and perfection turns 
on doing well and perfectly these ordinary duties that we 
do every day, I mean to be very careful from time to 
time, when I feel myself going slack upon this point, to 
make my particular examen on the same for some days, 
to renew myself and rehabilitate myself in doing them 

Of doing all things purely for God 

I. Not to do anything for any human respect, or to be 
seen and esteemed by men, or for my own comfort or 
interest, or simply to my own taste or satisfaction. 

II. To do all my actions purely for God, accustoming 
myself to make actual reference of them all to God, first, 
in the morning when I awake ; secondly, at the beginning 
of each action ; thirdly, also during the action itself, often 
in it raising my heart to God, saying : ' For Thee, O Lord, 
I do this, for Thy glory, and because Thou so wiliest it.' 

III. To go on applying this particular examen and ex- 
citing myself to the same so many times in the morning, 
so many times in the afternoon, beginning with fewer and 
then adding more, until I come to gain a habit and cus- 
tom of very frequently in my work raising my heart to 
God, and my eyes do not turn therein to regard anything 
but His Divine Majesty. 

IV. I am not to stop in this examen and exercise until 
I come to do all my actions as one serving God and not 
men ; and until I come to do them in such manner as to 
be always actually loving God in them, rejoicing that I 
am there doing His will, and putting all my joy and satis- 
faction in that, so that when I am at work I seem to be 
rather loving than working. 

V. This must be the presence of God in which I en- 
deavour to walk, and the continual prayer which I seek 
to carry on; since it will be very good and very advan- 

CH. V 



tageous for my soul, and will enable me to do things right 
down well and in perfection. 

Of Conformity to the Will of God 

I. To take all things and all occasions that offer, 
whether great or small, in whatsoever way and manner 
they come as coming from the hand of God, who sends 
them with the affection of a father for my greater g-ood 

and profit; conforming myself therein to His most holy 
and divine will, as if I saw Christ Himself saying to 
me, ' Son, I wish that just now thou shouldst do or suffer 

II. To contrive to go on growing and mounting in this 
Conformity to the will of God in all things by these three 
steps : (1) to receive things with patience : (2) with readi- 
ness and ease : (3) with joy and gladness, this being the 
will and good pleasure of God. 

III. I must not stop in this examen and exercise until 
I find in myself a sensible satisfaction and joy that the 
Lord's will is fulfilled in me, though it be with afflictions, 
contumelies and pains, and until all my joy and satisfac- 
tion is in the will and satisfaction of God. 

IV. Never to omit doing a thing that I take to be the 
will of God and to His greater glory and service, endeavour- 
ing therein to imitate Christ our Redeemer, who said : I 
ever do that which is most pleasing to my Eternal Father 
(John viii. 29). 

V. To walk in this exercise is a very good way to walk 
in the presence of God and in continual prayer, and very 

VI. The examen on mortification that we have set down 
above may be better applied by way of conformity to the 
will of God, taking all events and occurrences as coming 
from the hand of God in the manner that has been said ; 
and in this way it will be easier and of a better relish, and 
more profitable, since it will be an exercise of the love of 

It must be observed that we do not mean hereby to say 
that the particular examen is to be made in the order, in 
which the virtues are here set down, or by the degrees or 


parts that aire assigned under each virtue. The rule to be 
observed here is that each one should choose the virtue of 
which he stands most in need, and begin therein by that 
part or degree which is- now necessary for him ; and when 
he has done with that, he should proceed to select put of 
the rest what is most proper for him, until he comes to 
the perfection of that virtue by the grace of the Lord. 


That the matter of the particular examen should not be 
lightly changed, and for -what length of time it is well 
to keep it on the same subject 

It is to be observed here that we must not lightly change 
the matter of the examen, taking now one thing, now 
another, because this is, as they say, to beat about the 
bush and get no forwarder. Our policy must be to follow 
up One thing right to the end, and after that take up 
something- else. One of the reasons why some people 
make so little profit by their examen is very often this, 
that they do nothing but by fits and starts, making the 
particular examen on one thing for a week or a fortnight 
or for a month, and then getting tired and passing on to 
another thing without having gained the first, and then 
make another new start, and then another. Like one 
whd takes it into his head to raise a stone up the slope of 
a mountain right to the top, and after lifting it some way 
gets tired, and drops it, and lets it roll down' to 
the bottom, such a one will never succeed, how- 
ever much he labours, in getting the stone to its 
place : so it is with those who begin to make their examen 
on one thing; and without bringing it to a head and gain- 
ing what they sought abandon it, and take another and 
then another. This is to tire yourself out without result, 
always learning, and never arriving at knowledge of the 
truth (2 Tim. iii. 7). In the business of perfection, suc- 
cess is not won by fits and starts, but by long persever- 
ance : it is necessary to persist, and take one thing to 




heart, and hold to it until you have, got it; though it be. at 
great cost. St. Ghrysostom says :■ As those who are 
digging for a treasure, or mining for gold or silver, cease 
not to hollow out and extract earth, and remove all ob- 
stacles that come in the way, and sink ten or twenty shafts 
until -they .strike, on the treasure which they seek, so we, 
who are in quest of true spiritual riches^ and the true trea- 
sure of virtue and perfection, must not grow weary until 

we Strik« upon it, overcoming* all difficulties, so that 

nothing may stand in our way. I will pursue my enemies, 
says the prophet, and catch them up, and not be weary or 
turn back until they give in and I gain the victory over 
them (Ps. 17). This holy persistence it is that overcomes 
vice and gains virtue, not fits and starts. • . ; 

But let us now come to a reckoning. On how many 
subjects have you made your examen since you took the 
matter, up ? If you had succeeded in all, you would be a 
perfect man by this time. But if there is one in which 
you have not succeeded, why did you give it up? You 
will say that you; were not getting on well with it. Now 
it is just for this reason that you do not get on well, 
because you keep changing and have not the perseverance 
to carry on any one thing ; to- the end. If, making your 
examen and taking particular care over that thing, you 
say that you were not getting on well with it, you will 
get on worse when you do not make your examen - on it. 
If he who makes resolutions often fails, what will become 
of him who seldom or never makes a resolution ? Anyhow 
this making a resolution morning; mid-day and night, 
will be some check to prevent you falling so Often.- And 
though you fancy that you do 'not succeed in amending 
yourself and are* doing no good, be not discouraged on 
that account, and do not give it' up, but humble yourself 
and be ashamed at examen time, and turn to make new 
resolutions and start afresh. For to this purpose God 
permits these faults, and suffers the Jebusite (Judges i. 21) 
to remain in the land of your soul, that you may come to 
understand that of your own strength you' can do 
nothing, but all must come from the hand of God, and so 
you may have recourse to Him and ever live attached to 
and dependent on Him 1 . Under this trial a man is often 



tr. vii 

more fervent and diligent in improving himself than he 
would be if God gave him at once what he desired. 

But some one will ask : For how long a time will it 
be good to keep the particular examen on one thing? St. 
Bernard and Hugh of St. Victor treat this question : For 
how long a time will it be good to struggle against one 
vice ? And they answer : Until the vice becomes so en- 
feebled, that as soon as it rises up in rebellion, you can 
at once easily put it down and reduce it to reason. Thus 
it is not necessary to wait until one no longer feels the 
passion or the repugnance, for that would be never to 
finish. Hugh of St. Victor says: "That is more for angels 
than for men. " It is enough that now this vice or passion 
is no longer very troublesome to you, nor gives you much 
to think about, but as soon as it arises you meet it and 
cast it from you with facility : then you may well stop 
the struggle and make the particular examen on something 
else. Even there outside Seneca said : ' ' We fight against 
vices, not to overcome them entirely, but not to be over- 
come " : contra vitia pugnamus, non ut penitus vincamus, 
sed ne vincamur. It is not necessary that we should not 
feel the vice at all, enough that it is now a beaten foe, 
so as to give us no more trouble nor disturb us in our 
course of well-doing. 

To hit the mark better in this matter, it is well that 
every one should talk it over with his spiritual father, for 
this is one of the chief things on which we need counsel. 
For some things it is enough to apply the examen for a 
short time, as we have said above : there are other things 
in which the examen may be well employed for a year, or 
even many years : for ' ' if every year we rooted out one 
vice, we should soon be perfect men" (Thomas a Kem- 
pis). And there are things such that a whole lifetime 
would be well spent over one of them, for that would be 
sufficient for some particular man to attain perfection. 
Thus we have known persons who have, taken to heart 
one thing, and applied their particular examen to it as long 
as they lived, and so came to signalise themselves in it and 
do it to perfection, — one in the virtue of patience, another 
in a most profound humility, others in great conformity to 
the will of God, others in doing all things purely for God. 

ch. vii 



In this manner also we should endeavour to come to per- 
fection in some virtue, insisting and persevering - in it until 
we gain it. This does not hinder our interrupting this 
examen sometimes : nay it is well that so it should be 
done, turning to make the examen for a week on silence, 
on doing our spiritual duties well, on speaking well of 
all, of speaking no word that could in any way offend 
any pne, and on other such like things as are apt at times 
to sprout up and show their heads above ground within 
us. After that, we may return at once to our post, .and 
follow out our principal purpose, until we entirely succeed 
in our aim. 


How the particular examen is to be made 

The second principal topic that we proposed to treat 
was how to make this examen. The. particular examen 
embraces three times, and an examination of oneself twice 
repeated. The first time is in the early morning at rising : 
every one should then form a resolution to be on his guard 
against this or that particular vice or defect, of which he 
wishes to correct and amend himself. The second time 
is at mid-day, at which the first examen should be 
made, which contains three points : the first is to ask 
grace of our Lord to remember how many times I have 
fallen into this defect on which I am making my particular 
examen : the second, to take account of my soul touching 
this defect or vice, going over my conduct from the hour 
at which I arose and made my resolution to the present 
hour, and see how many times I have fallen therein, and 
make as many dots on a line of a little book, kept for that 
purpose, as shall answer to the number of times I find I 
have fallen ; the third is to be sorry for having fallen, 
asking God's pardon for the same, and purposing not to 
fall that afternoon into that fault, with the grace of God. 
The third time is at night before going to rest : then the 
examen must be made a second time, neither more nor 
kss than at mid-day, by these three points, going through 


the time from the last examen until the present moment ; 
and making- on the second line as many dots as shall 
answer to, the number of times I find I have fallen. And 
to extirpate more easily and more readily this defect or 
vice on which we are making the examen,. our Father 
puts three notices, which he calls * additions ' ; the first, 
that every time the man falls into this particular vice or 
defect, he should repent, putting his hand to his breast, 
which can be done even in the presence of others without 
their noticing what is done ; the second, that at night 
time, after having made the examen, he should compare 
the afternoon's dots with those of the morning, to see 
whether there is any improvement ; the third and fourth, 
that he should also compare to-day with yesterday, and 
this week with last week, in reference to the same defect. 

All this teaching is drawn from the Saints. St. 
Antony advised the writing down of the faults discovered 
by the examen, for the doer's greater shame and as an 
admonition to him to labour at their amendment. St. 
John Climacus would have us, not only at night and 
examen time, but at all hours, to note down any fault 
into which we fall immediately upon committing it, that 
thus the examen may be better made, as the good man of 
business and the good steward puts down in his day-book 
at- once anything that he sells or buys, so that nothing 
may be forgotten,and that he may be better able to make 
up his account at nights. St. Basil- and St. Bernard 
expressly lay down the counsel to compare one day with 
another, in order to get a better idea of one's advancement 
or falling back, and diligently to aim at growing better 
every day and more like the holy angels. St. Dorotheus 
advises us to compare week with week and month with 

The method that our Father lays down of taking the 
amendment of a fault time by time and little by little, 
half a day at a time and no more, is a method set down 
by St. Ghrysostom, St. Ephrem, and St. Bernard, as most 
efficacious for the uprooting of any vice or fault. Even 
in the heathen world Plutarch also prescribes it, and gives 
the example of a man of a very choleric temperament, who 
had great difficulty in keeping his temper, and took for 

cti. vii 



his task not to get angry for one day : so he spent one 
day without getting angry, and another day he said: 
" Well, I don't mean to get angry to-day either, not to- 
day at least " : he did the same another day and another, 
until he came to make himself of a very sweet and agree- 
able disposition^ Well, this is the- way our Father in- 
structs us in the particular examen, to make the effort 
easier for us. Dealing with an invalid who has. lost his 
appetite, they give him his dinner little by little* that he 
may be able to eat it. If you put-a whole chicken before 
him, he would think it outrageous to have to eat all that, 
and could not eat a mouthful : but cut off a little bit and 
give it him, and keep the rest there, hidden between two 
plates ; in this way, little, by little, morsel by morsel, you 
make him eat all that he needs. Our Father wishes in 
this way to help us with the particular examen, as they 
do with infirm . and weakly people, little by little, half a 
day and half a day at a time, that we may be able to get 
on. If we took it all together, — ' all the year long I am 
riot to talk,' ■ all my life I am to walk with my eyes cast 
down, under such control and with such modesty, '—the 
mere thought perchance Would weary us, and we should 
think it impossible to carry through, it would be a sad 
and melancholy life. But just for one half-day* for One 
morning, till dinner-time, who would not be willing to 
go about with propriety and restrain his tongue? After 
midklay you will make your resolution only for the after- 
noon : as for to-morrow, God has pronounced what it 
shall be; and how do ydu know if you shall get so far? 
And if you do live so long as that, that is not more 
than one day either, and you will not be sorry next morn- 
ing to have spent the day in such recollection, rather you 
will find yourself very glad of it, and more disposed to 
do it better and with greater facility and delight. -. I 
sometimes think that some people fail by not making a 
strenuous effort in this practice of making their resolu- 
tion for that half -day only ; it would • be a great help 
towards rendering their resolution more effectual. 
■'■ In the Chronicles of St. Francis it is related of Brother 
Juniper that, though he always spoke very little, yet one 
time he kept perpetual 'silence for six months together, in 


this way. The first day he purposed to keep silence in 
honour of God the Father, the second in homage to God 
the Son, the third in homage to the Holy Ghost, the 
fourth for love of our Lady ; and so he ran through all 
the Saints, each day observing silence with new fervour 
and devotion in honour of some one of them. Following 
this plan, a man is more encouraged to correct himself 
on that particular point on which he is making his par- 
ticular examen, and is also more ashamed and confounded 
for the faults that he commits, seeing that even for so 
short a time he could not carry out his purpose. Thus in 
every way this method will be a great help to us. 


That in the examen we should insist and dwell princi- 
pally on sorrow and purpose of amendment 

What is to be particularly well observed as regards 
the method of making the examen, is that of the three 
points which it contains the two last are the most im- 
portant, that is, grief and repentance for our faults and 
negligences, and a firm purpose to correct them, accord- 
ing to that text of the prophet, have compunction in your 
beds (Ps. 4), In this sentiment of compunction and re- 
pentance, and in this firm purpose not to fall again, all the 
force and efficacy of the examen as a means of self-amend- 
ment lies; and therefore on this most time should be 
spent. One of the chief reasons why many get little 
profit and amendment out of their examens is because 
they let the whole time slip away in searching out the times 
in which they have fallen into faults ; and scarcely have 
they done with this point when examen time is oyer, and 
they do the rest superficially. They do not dwell on 
sorrow and repentance for their faults, nor on being 
ashamed and begging pardon for them, nor on making 
firm purposes of amendment for that afternoon or the 
day following, nor in begging God's grace and strength 
to that end. Hence it comes that, as many times 
as you have fallen to-day, so many you fall to- 

CH. Vlll 



morrow, because the only thing you have done in 
the examen is to remember and call to mind the number 
of times that you have fallen. That is not the way to 
correct yourself : it is only the first point of the examen, 
and the foundation on which the other principal points 
must be built. The effectual way to correct yourself is 
to grieve and repent in all sincerity for your faults, with 
a firm purpose of amending them, and to ask our Lord 

for grace to that end : you -will never amend yourself If 

you do not that. These two things, grief for the 
past and purpose of amendment for the future, 
are so akin to one another, that the one goes on at the 
same rate as the other, for it is certain that where we really 
abhor a thing, we take care not to plunge into it. 

Every day we say and preach this to seculars, it is only 
reasonable that we should take it to ourselves. What 
is the reason, we say, why people in the world fall back 
again so easily into the same sins after so many confes- 
sions? Do you know what it is? The reason com- 
monly is because they did not detest them in good earnest, 
nor did they come to confession with firm purposes never 
to sin again. Thus since their heart was never fully 
determined to return wholly to God, but they only turned 
round half -face, as they say, they easily went back to what 
they had never entirely quitted : whereas if they had been 
really sorry and detested their sin, and had a firm purpose 
never to sin again, they would not have gone back to it 
at once so easily on leaving the confessional, just as if 
they had not confessed at all. For this reason also it 
is that you fall into the same faults in the afternoon as 
in the morning, and the same to-day as yesterday, be- 
cause you were not sorry for them in good earnest, nor 
detested them from your heart, nor had any firm purpose 
of amendment, nor dwelt upon this : had you done so, 
you would not have relapsed into them so readily and so 
easily, since we are not wont so easily to do what we have 
once detested and grieved and been pained at having 
done. Sorrow and repentance for our sins, when it is 
real, not only rids us of past sins, but is a medicine pre- 
servative for the future ; because he who steadily abhors 
sin is far from falling into it anew* 


Even that heathen philosopher knew the efficacy and 
force of this means for not falling - into sin : for when a 
bad woman asked him an excessive price for sinning, he 
answered : " I do not buy repentance at so dear a rate." 
Let this answer be noted, for it is worthy not only of a 
philosopher, but of a Christian and a Religious. Some- 
times I set myself to consider the folly of those who make 
up their minds to sin by saying : ' I will repent after- 
wards, and God will pardon me.' But how can you be 
so foolish as to choose just now to gratify your appetite, 
and gather a brief thrill of pleasure that passes in a 
moment, bargaining at the same time to keep up after- 
wards for life a perpetual sorrow and repentance for hav- 
ing allowed yourself that gratification. For though it is 
true that God will pardon you that sin afterwards, if you 
repent of it, yet after all to obtain pardon, it is necessary to 
repent and be sorry afterwards for having done it. There 
is much force in this argument, even speaking here of 
earthly considerations, apart from the motive of the love 
of God, which should always be our principal motive, 
merely looking at our own satisfaction and self-love. I 
have no mind to do that, which I know must give me 
afterwards much pain and much grief for having done it. 
The thrill of pleasure in doing it is over in a moment, while 
the grief and pain of having done it must last all my 
life, so that I can never afterwards take satisfaction or 
complacency therein. Great folly it is to choose so much 
pain at the price of so little pleasure. 

St, Paul says the thing better : What fruit did ye gather 
from that whereof ye are now ashamed? (Rom, vi. 21). 
What show can that small satisfaction that you get make 
in comparison with the sorrow that you must feel afters- 
wards? This should be considered beforehand before a 
fall. When the temptation comes, you should make this 
calculation, and say : ' I have no mind to do that of which 
I must afterwards be ashamed and repent as long as I 
live. ' Even here, when you want to persuade a man not 
to do a thing, you say to him : * See how you will repent 
afterwards of having done it ' ; and he says : ' No, I 
shall not repent ' : for if he thought that he would repent, 
he sees well what madness it would be to do what he 

ch. viii 



knows must afterwards make him sorry and give him 
much pain. 

I have said this that it may be. seen what an efficacious 
means true sorrow and repentance is, to prevent our fall- 
ing into our faults again ; hence we may understand bow 
important it is to dwell on this in our examens. It is 
true that one may have true sorrow and purpose of amend- 
ment, and withal relapse again into sin, because we are 

not ang-els, but Weak men, vessels of clay, which may 

break and fall to pieces, and once more be made up again. 
Nevertheless, when a man after finishing his confession 
returns at once to the same oaths, and to the same desires 
and sins that he. has just confessed, we are wont commonly 
to say that he cannot have had true contrition or sorrow 
for that sin, nor any firm purpose of amendment, seeing 
that he relapses so quickly. In the same way it is a 
great indication and argument that you were not really 
sorry, and had not any firm purpose of amendment, when 
you made your examen at mid-day or at night on having 
broken silence, to see how that same afternoon, or the 
very next day, you break silence just in the same way as 
if you had not made any examen ; and I say the. same of 
other faults on which you are making examen. Even 
before your brethren you are ashamed to tell a fault, or 
have it told of you, when you have told it already three or 
four times. How much more should you be ashamed 
before God, if you have really told your fault before Him, 
repenting of it from your heart, and begging pardon, and 
"purposing amendment, hot thrice or four times, but more 
than three or four dozens of times ! No doubt we should 
amend ourselves and make progress in quite another way, 
if we repented and were sorry in good earnest, and made 
firm purposes of amendment. 


That it is a very helpful thing to add some penances 
to the examen 

Our Father was not satisfied with sorrow and repent- 
ance and inward purposes, but we read in his Life that, 
for the better compassing of the end desired, he recom- 
mended the addition of some penance to the particular 
examen, marking out for ourselves a certain penalty to 
exact of ourselves every time we fall into the fault which 
is the matter of our particular examen. Fra Louis of 
Granada gives instances of some servants of God whom 
he knew, one of whom, when he found at his night examen 
that he had exceeded in some ill-spoken word, would bite 
his tongue in penance for the same ; and another would 
take, a discipline for this and any other defect he fell into. 

It is said of the holy Abbot Agatho that for three years 
he carried a pebble in his mouth to gain the virtue of 
silence. As we here wear a haircloth to mortify the flesh, 
and to serve us as a call to chastity, so this Saint carried 
a pebble below his tongue that it might be as it were his 
haircloth, and serve him as a reminder and caller not to 
speak more than necessary. And of our Blessed Father 
Ignatius we read that at the beginning of his conversion 
he was much tempted to laughter, and that he overcame 
the temptation by free use of the discipline, giving himself 
as many strokes each night as there were times that he 
had laughed during the day, however slight the laugh had 
been. And it is usually a great help, this adding of some 
penance to the examen, for with the penance the soul feels 
chastened and afraid to commit that fault another time. 
The spur makes the beast go, however lazy it be. Such 
an aid is the spur, that no sooner does the creature feel 
that there is one there, though it does not prick it, than it 
makes it go. If every time that a man broke silence he 
had to take a public discipline, or dine on bread and water 
for three days, which was the penance of old marked in 
the rules for those who broke silence, of a surety it would 




greatly restrain us from talking. Besides this, and the 
merit and satisfaction there is in it, there is another very 
great advantage, which is that God our Lord, seeing the 
penance wherewith a man chastises and afflicts himself, 
is wont to hear his petition and desire. And this is one 
of the effects of penance and exterior mortification that the 
Saints set down, and our holy Father sets it down in the 
book of the Exercises. The angel said to Daniel: From 
the first day that thou didst set thy heart to understand, 
and to afflict thyself in the sight of thy God, thy prayer 
was heard (Dan. x. 12). The prophet Daniel added to his 
prayer fasting and mortification of the flesh, and so ob- 
tained the deliverance of his people, and moved God to 
reveal to him great mysteries, and do him other very par- 
ticular favours. And we see that in the Church of God 
this means has always been very commonly used to obtain 
and gain the favour of God in distresses and necessities. 

When an infant asks of its mother the breast that it 
needs, and asks it only by expressing its desire by signs, 
the mother often refuses or puts it off ; but when it asks 
by weeping and wailing, the mother cannot refrain from 
giving it at once. So when a man asks of God the virtue 
of humility, of patience, of chastity, or the victory over 
some temptation, or any like thing, and asks only by 
desire and word, oftentimes he does not gain what he 
asks, or is long put off, but when to prayer we join pen- 
ance and mortification of the flesh, and afflict ourselves 
before God, then we gain our petition much better, with 
greater certainty and in shorter time. God has a great 
love of good men, and seeing them putting themselves to 
pain and affliction to gain what they ask, He is moved to 
compassion and uses greater mercy with them. We read 
in Holy Writ that the patriarch Joseph could not contain 
himself when he saw the affliction and tears of his brethren, 
but discovered himself to them and made them partakers 
of all his goods : Joseph could no longer contain himself, 
and said to his brethren, I am Joseph (Gen. xlv. 1, 3). 
What will not He do, who loves us more than Joseph, 
and is our Brother, when He sees our affliction and grief? 
In every way this means will avail us much. 

This agrees very well with what Cassian says, treating 




of the care and diligence with which we should proceed in 
the warfare of the particular examen. If the. effort of the 
particular examen ought to be made, as we have said, on 
that point of which we have most need ; if it ought to serve 
to uproot that passion or inclination which reigns in 
us more; than others, which more particularly upsets us, 
and; puts us in greater dangers, and makes us fall into 
most faults ; if it be to overcome that vice, the Overcom- 
ing of which will carry victory over all the rest, and the 
gaining of that virtue with which we shall have gained 
all other virtues, with how much solicitude and diligence 
will it be reasonable for us to act in a matter of so much 
importance to us ! Do you know with how much? Cas- 
sian tells us : " Against this predominant passion let him 
employ his main force, devoting all his care and solicitude 
to attacking and watching it ; against it let him direct the' 
daily arrows of his fasts ; against it let him heave every 
moment the sighs of his heart, and hurl the darts of his 
groans ; against it be the labours of his watchings and the 
meditation of his heart ; ; against it let him ceaselessly pour 
out before God the wailings of his prayers, begging Him 
especially and continually to put an end to the assaults 
of that vice. " 

We must not rest content with taking this care about 
our examen alone, but also about our meditation ; and 
that not '■ only in the time set aside for meditation, but 
frequently in the day we must raise our heart to God with 
eja'culatory prayers and sighs and groans of the heart : 
' Lord, humility; Lord, chastity; Lord, patience.' For 
this we should often visit the Blessed Sacrament, asking 
with much earnestness of the Lord to give us grace to 
gain a thing so important for us ; we must have recourse 
to our Lady and the Saints to be our intercessors. To 
this "end we must direct our fasts, haircloths, dis- 
ciplines, and' subjoin certain devotions, and offer 
Certain particular mortifications. If in this manner arid 
with, this care arid diligence we went to work with bur 
particular eiamen, we should quickly feel the better for 
it ; because the Lord would see our affliction, arid hear our 
prayer, and fulfil the desire of our heart; And all this 
must be well observed to aid iis also therewith in other 

CH. X 



temptations and grave needs that occur. St. Bonaventure 
says that Our Lady told St. Elizabeth of Hungary that 
no spirituaL grace comes to the soul, regularly speaking, 
otherwise than, by prayer and affliction of the: body. 


Of the general examination of conscience 

The general examination of conscience contains five 
points. The first is to give; thanks to God for benefits 
received. This calling to mind of benefits received is put 
first, in order that, contrasting therewith the faults: and 
sins that we have committed in return for so many bene- 
fits, we may thence take occasion better to enter into 
sentiments of eotif usion , and heartfelt sorrow. Thus , the 
prophet Nathan first recounted tp David the favours that 
God had done him, in order to show the deformity and 
magnitude of the sin that he had committed. The second 
point is, to ask of our Lord grace to know the faults and 
sins into which we have fallen. The third, to, take account 
of our soul, going through our conduct from the hour 
at. : which we made our resolutions, first, for thoughts, 
secondly, for words, thirdly, for actions. The fourth point 
is, to beg God's pardon for the faults that we find we have 
committed,- grieving and repenting for the same. The 
fifth, to purpose amendment by the grace of the Lord, 
with an Our Father.. 

, This general examen should be made always along 
with the particular ; ; for immediately in. the morning on, 
rising we should offer to our Lord all that, we are going 
to • do that day. So our Father says, speaking of 
the particular exainen, that immediately on,, rising we 
should purpose to be on our guard against that particu- 
lar vice which we wish to correct ; and this is the first time 
for the -particular 'examen. We should also at the same; 
time offer to God all the thoughts, words' and actions of 
that day, that all may be for" His glory, purposing at the 
same time not to offend Him, and begging His grace to 
that end. It is the right thing for all to have the cos- 


torn of doing this. Afterwards, twice a day, at mid-day 
and at night, we must make the general examen along 
with the particular. Such is the custom of the Society, 
founded on our Constitutions, and we find it expressed in 
the first of the Common Rules : " Let all, twice a day, 
give the time, marked out to them for the examination of 
their conscience." Thus as the clock is regulated and the 
weights wound up twice a day, at morning and at night, 
that it may keep time, so we ought to regulate the clock 
of our conscience by the morning and night examen, that 
it may always keep time. Thus at noon, when we go 
through and take account of the times that we have failed 
in the matter of our particular examen, from the hour at 
which we made the purpose, which was when we rose, 
down to then, so also we must run through and take 
account of the faults we have committed in thought, word 
and deed from the time that we rose till then ; and after 
that we must move ourselves to shame and repentance for 
the faults committed in the matter of our particular and 
general examen together, and purpose amendment for the 
afternoon as well in the one as in the other. And at night 
we must make in like manner the particular and the 
general examen together going through and taking ac- 
count only of the time since our previous examen at mid- 

The main thing to notice about the manner of making 
this general examen is the same as we said of the particu- 
lar, that all its force and efficacy lies in these two later 
points, that is, in repentance and shame for the faults we 
have fallen into, and a firm purpose of amendment for 
the afternoon or for to-morrow morning : in that consists 
our making our examen well and drawing fruit from it. 
Father Master Avila says of this examen : " You should 
make account that you have, entrusted to you a prince's 
son to take continual care of, to see after him, and set him 
in the way of good habits and clear him of bad ones, and 
that every day you call him to account." Now if you had 
such a charge, it is clear that you would not lay the main 
stress of his amendment on his telling you how many times 
he had fallen and failed to-day, but in making him acknow- 
ledge his fault, in rebuking him and giving him admoni- 


tions, and drawing from him firm purposes of amendment ; 
and you would tell him plainly, in so many wordsj that 
being the son of him whose son he is, he must mend his 
ways. So then in this manner you ought to regard your 
soul as a thing entrusted to you by God, and in this manner 
you ought to deal with it in the account that you ask of it, 
and on this you ought to lay the stress of your examen and 
self -amendment ; not on calling to mind the faults that you 
have committed, but on shame and repentance for haying- 
committed them, and on rebuking yourself as you would 
rebuke another person of whom you had the charge, and 
on making firm resolutions not to fall again into these 

And we ought to be aided hereto by the consideration 
that the general examen is the proper and legitimate pre- 
paration for confession ; and this is the title that our Father 
gives it in the Book of Spiritual Exercises : " A general 
examination of conscience for a man to cleanse his soul 
and better prepare for confession, ' ' And the reason is 
manifest, for two principal things are required for con- 
fession ; the first is examination of one's faults, the second 
is sorrow for them : and these things are done completely 
in the examen of conscience ; and so, if we make this 
examen well, we shall make our confession well. And 
it is to be observed that the sorrow necessary for confes- 
sion, as the Council of Trent and that of Florence says, 
includes two things, regret and repentance for sin, and 
purpose not to sin any more : where either of these two 
things is wanting, • there will be no sufficient disposition 
for confession. Some think that then only is their con- 
fession null and void, when they leave put some sin 
through shame; but I believe that there are many more 
cases of confessions being had, sacrilegious and null, for 
want of true sorrow and purpose of amendment than for 
want of due acknowledgment of sins. 

Hereby may be seen how necessary this preparation is, 
and how important it is to accustom ourselves in our ex- 
amen to excite ourselves, and take time over exciting our- 
selves, to sorrow for our faults and purpose never to fall 
into them again. And so I say that of the three principal 
points that there are in the examen, — the other two being 


what we may call preludes, — the chief part of the time 
should be spent on the two last, that is, on begging God's 
pardon, moving ourselves to repentance and shame for our 
faults, and on making purposes of amendment. The 
lesser portion of the time should be spent in running 
through and calling to mind the faults into which we have 
fallen. For this latter point, albeit it is one of those three 
principal points, the third part of the examen time is suffi- 
cient. The Other two parts should be kept for the other 
two points, since they are the principal points,' and on 
them the force and efficacy and fruit of the examen 
depends. ' 

But some one will say : ' how shall we be able in such 
a short time as the third part of a quarter of an hour to go 
through all the times that we have fallen in the matter of 
the particular examen, besides the faults that we have 
committed in that of the general -examen by thought, word 
and deed ? why, even the whole quarter of an hour would 
seem too little for this.' The best means for this is to 
bring the first point already done when we go to examen. 
It is told of our blessed Father Ignatius that, every time 
he failed in the matter of his particular examen, he tied a 
knot on a shoe-string that he carried on his girdle for this 
express purpose, and afterwards by the knots he knew the 
number of times without stopping any more on it. And as 
for what regarded the general examen, he did not let an 
hour of the day pass without recollecting himself, leaving 
all else alone to examine his conscience. And if perchance 
some business came in upon him, so grave and so urgent 
an occupation as not to allow him that hour to fulfil his 
devotional practice, he made it up the next hour, or as 
soon as the occupation gave him a vacant moment. 

This would be a very good devotion, every time the 
clock struck to cast a glance at our conscience : some even 
have the practice of examining themselves over every 
action they do. And if it seems much to you to do this 
every hour, or over every action, it will be good to do it 
at least over every one of the principal actions of the day ; 
and of some we have special directions that on finishing 
them we should make examen of them,, as we have said 
above. St. Bonaventure says that a servant of God should 


i examine" himself seven times a day. And if in the particular 
examen we keep that addition of putting our hand to our 
breast every time we fall, we shall easily remember thereby 
the number of times that we have fallen. Although our 
Father does not appoint this addition to enable us to re- 
member our faults, but to make us repent of them at Once, 
and therefore he prescribes this gesture of putting the hand 
to the breast, as though to say, ' I have sinned,' yet after 

all, 1£ we Weep this addition, it ■will be a great 'Kelp to us 

afterwards to remember easily the times we have fallen. 
Add to this, that when one keeps a reckoning with oneself, 
and lives with a careful eye to .making progress, whenever 
such a person falls into a fault, he at once feels remorse of 
conscience, which is the* best awakener to make him re- 
member it. 

This is the final answer to two sorts of persons : for 
some there are to whom a whole quarter of an hour seems 
little time enough to remember the faults into which they 
have fallen, and to these we; have already given a method 
how to bring the first point as it were already done, that 
so they may have time over to busy themselves with the 
two following^ Others there are on the contrary whom 
the quarter of an hour of examen leaves much at large, 
and they do not find anything to spend it On ; these we may 
more easily satisfy. We have already said that alike at 
mid-day and at night the general examen must be made 
along with the particular, and after having seen the faults 
into which we have fallen in the one examen and in the 
other, we should occupy ourselves in sentiments of shame 
and repentance for them, and in begging pardon, and in 
firm purposes of amendment, and in asking of our Lord 
grace thereto ; on which occupation the more we dwell, the 
better. . ' • " " ' " 

St. Dorotheus adds to this a piece of advice very help- 
ful : he says that at examen we should not only take ac- 
count of the faults into which we have fallen, but much 
more of the roots of those faults, examining the causes 
and occasions that led to our fall, that so we may be fore- 
warned and. on our guard against them from this time 
onwards. Thus if by going out of my room I have broken 
silence, or murmured, I must resolve not to go out Of "it 


henceforth without necessity, and then to go forewarned, 
and so of other the like things. Otherwise, it will be like 
a man stumbling over a stone, and, for not paying atten- 
tion to the occasion of his stumbling, stumbling there the 
next morning also ; or as a man wanting to set a blighted 
tree right by merely cutting off some branches and the 
rotten and worm-eaten fruit. If we make our examens in 
this way, the time prescribed for them will not seem too 
ample, but short. 


That the examen of conscience is a means of putting 
into execution all other spiritual methods and direc- 
tions, and the reason why we do not profit by it is 
because we do not make it as we ought 

The blessed St. Basil, after having given his monks 
many spiritual directions, concludes with this, that every 
night before going to bed they should make examen of 
conscience, thinking that this will be sufficient to secure 
the observance of all that he has said and hold them to it. 
With this also I wish to conclude this treatise, much com- 
mending this examination to all, since by the grace of the 
Lord it will be enough to put all other spiritual directions 
into execution, and remedy all our faults. If you are 
growing slack at prayer, careless of obedience, uncon- 
trolled in talking, beginning to take back a little of your 
free-and-easy worldly ways, all that will be stopped and 
cured at once by this examen. He who makes this examin- 
ation of conscience every day may reckon that he carries 
with him a governor, a master of novices, a superior, who 
every day and every hour will ask of him an account, ad- 
vise him what to do, and rebuke him on any point on 
which he fails. 

Father Master Avila says : " Your faults cannot go on 
long, if this examination of conscience goes on," and 
this squaring of your accounts and rebuking yourself every 
day and every hour. And if your faults do go on, and at 
the end of many days, and perhaps years, you are as 

ch. xi 


unmortified, your passions as full and lively as at the be- 
ginning, it is because you do not use as you ought these 
means that we have for our spiritual progress. For if you 
had really taken to heart the getting rid of one fault and 
the gaining of one virtue, and had gone about it with 
care and diligence, purposing amendment three times a 
day at least, morning, mid-day, and night, comparing 
every day the faults of the evening with those of the morn- 
ing - , and the faults of to-day with those of yesterday, and 

those of this week with those of the week past, repenting 
and being ashamed for having fallen so many times, and 
begging support of our Lord and of His Saints to correct 
yourself, — at the end of so much time you would have 
come out with some result. 

But if a man goes on making his examen out of routine 
and for form's sake, without any true sorrow for his 
faults and any firm purposes of amendment, that is no 
examen, but a vain ceremony and a Christmas game. 
Hence it is that the same evil propensities, and the same 
bad habits and inclinations that a man brought from the 
world, he keeps after many years of Religion : if he was 
proud, proud he is to-day; if he was impatient and 
haughty, the same he is to-day; if he used to utter sharp 
and stinging words, he utters them to-day : he is as un- 
mannerly to-day as he. was the first day ; as self-willed, as 
greedy, as great a lover of his own comforts. And God 
grant that instead Of advancing and growing in virtue, 
some people's evil propensities have not grown, and their 
free-and-easy ways been accentuated by the length of time 
they have spent in Religion. And whereas they ought 
to be more humble, they are more uppish and presump- 
tuous, and fall into that false position of which St. Bernard 
speaks : " Many there are who there in the world would 
have been held in small account, arid here in Religion want 
to be great people * and who there would not have found 
necessaries, but here seek comforts." Quodque ferversum 
est, pleriqiie in domo Dei nori pdUuntur haberi contemptui, 
qui in sua now nisi contemptibiles esse potuerunt. 

From what has been said it will appear also what a bad 
excuse it is that some make for their faults, saying ' Oh 
that is my way. ' Rather he is all the more to blame, who 


knowing that he has this or that bad way, and being bound 
to bestow all his care and diligence in fortifying that 
weak side of his character, not to come to ruin thereby, 
lets himself be at the end of so long a time as passionate 
and unrestrained as he was the first day he came. Let 
him then who makes it his business to serve God,— for 
to all such persons we are speaking here, — enter into him- 
self, and begin anew, trying henceforth to get his examina- 
tion of conscience well done, so that the fruit thereof may 
appear. We are men, and we have our faults, and shall 
have them so long as we are in this life : but we should 
try to realise three things by aid of the examen. In the first 
place, if our faults were many, let them henceforth be few ; 
secondly, if they were great,, let them be smaller ; thirdly, 
let them not always be the same, for to repeat the same 
fault time after time argues great carelessness and negli- 

Evagrius, in a book which he wrote on the life and bodily 
exercises of monks, mentions one holy monk who said : 
" I do not know that the devils have ever caught me twice 
in the same fault." This man must have made his examen 
of conscience well ; this man repented in earnest, and made 
firm, purposes of amendment. In this way then we should 
make our examens. By this means God raised and ele- 
vated our blessed Father Ignatius to such perfection. We 
read in his Life a notable and very special thing. Com- 
paring yesterday with to-day, and his present state of pro- 
gress with his past, he found that every day he had ad- 
vanced and gained ground, or rather had gained not 
earthly ground but heaven. So much so, that in his old 
age he came to say that the state in which he was at Man- 
resa, — which in the time of his studies he used to call his 
' primitive Church,'— had been like a noviceship; and 
daily God went on adorning his soul, and filling in with 
tints of perfection the portrait of which at Manresa He 
had sketched only the outlines. Let us then use as we 
/ought the means which the Lord has so specially given us, 
and let us have great confidence that thereby He will raise 
us to the perfection which we desire. 



. CHAPTER I ' ' ' ' 

In which two fundamental principles are laid down 

' Not as, I will, but as thou wiliest (Matt. xxvi. 39)* - For 
two ends, the Saints tell us, the Son of God descended from 
heaven, and clothed Himself with our -flesh, making Him- 
self true Man: the one, to redeem us by His precious 
Blood ; the other, to teach us by His doctrine the way to 
heaven, and instruct us by. His example s for as it would 
profit us nothing to know the way, if we remained shut 
up in the prison, so, says St. Bernard, it would not profit 
us to deliver us from prison, if we did not know the way. 
And as God was invisible, that we- might see Him and be 
able to follow and imitate Him, it was necessary that He 
should make Himself man and clothe Himself in our 
human nature, as the shepherd clothes himself with the 
shepherd's smock-frock, which is the skin of a sheep, 
that the sheep may follow him seeing their own like- 
ness. St. Leo says : " If He were not true God, He 
would bring us no remedy : if He were not true man, He 
would give us no example. ' ' He did the one and the other 
in all completeness for "the excess of love that He bore 
to men. As His redemption was copious (Ps. 129), so 
also was His teaching ; for it was not only given by wowls, 
but much more abundantly by the example of His deeds. 
Jesus began to do and to teach (Acts i. 1). He first began 
to do, and that all His life long, and afterwards to preach 
for the three last years of His life, or two and a half. ' ' 
•\'\ Now among the things that Christ our Redeemer taught 
us one of the chiefest was, that we should have an entire 
conformity with the will of God in all things. He taught 
us that, not only in words,— instructing us how to pray, 




He set down for one of our principal petitions, Thy will 
be done on earth as it is in heaven, (Matt. vi. 10), — but He 
also confirmed this doctrine by His example : I came down 
from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him 
that sent me (John vi. 38). And at the time of accom- 
plishing the work of our redemption, that Thursday of the 
Supper, in that prayer, in the garden, though His body 
and sensible appetite naturally shrank from death, — and 
so to show that He was true man He said : Father, if it 
be possible, let this chalice pass from me (Matt. xxvi. 39), 
— yet His will ever remained quite ready and desirous to 
drink the chalice which His Father was sending Him, 
and therefore He added at once : Yet not my will, but thine 
be done. 

To go to the root of the matter, and establish ourselves 
well in this conformity, we must suppose two brief but 
very substantial fundamental principles, on which all this 
matter must turn as upon two hinges. The first is, that 
our advancement and perfection consists in conformity to 
the will of God ; and the greater and more perfect this con- 
formity, the greater will be our perfection. This founda- 
tion lends itself to being readily understood : for it is 
certain that perfection consists essentially in charity and 
love of God, and a man will be more perfect the more he 
loves God. Full of this doctrine is the holy Gospel, full 
the Epistles of St. Paul, full the writings of the Saints. 
This is the greatest and first commandment (Matt, 
xxii. 38). Charity is the bond of perfection (Col. iii. 14). 
The greatest of these virtues is charity (1 Cor. xiii. 13). 
The highest and most perfect is charity and the love of 
God. But the highest and most exalted and purest point 
of this love, and what we may call the acme of it, is 
conformity in all to the will of God, so as to have one will 
of acceptance and one will of refusal with His Divine 
Majesty in all things. St. Jerome; says, and he has it 
from a pagan philosopher : ' ' To have the same I will 
and J will not with him whom you love, that is true friend- 
ship" : eadem velle et eadem nolle, ea demumfirma amicitia 
est. It follows that the more conformable and the more 
united to the will of God a man is, the better will he be. 
Further, it is clear that there is nothing better or more 

ch. i PROVIDENCE 413 

perfect than the will of God : therefore the more a man 
seeks and conforms himself to the will of God, the better 
and more perfect will he be. So that other philosopher 
argued : " If God is the most perfect being there is, the 
more perfect any other being will be, the more it is assimi- 
lated and made like to God." 

The second fundamental principle is this : that nothing 
can happen or come about in this world but by the will 

and ordinance of God, — always under'standingf, except 

fault and sin, for of that God is not cause nor author, 
nor can He be ; for as it is repugnant to the nature of fire 
to freeze, and to that of water to warm, and to that of 
the sun to darken, so it is infinitely more against the 
goodness of God to love evil. So said the prophet Haba- 
cuc : Lord, thine eyes are too pure to bear the sight of 
evil, and thou canst not give countenance to iniquity (Hab. 
i. 13). As we say here on earth, he cannot bear the sight, 
to give to understand the abhorrence that one has for a 
thing, so he says that God cannot bear the sight of evil for 
the great hatred and abhorrence that He has for it. Thou 
art not a God that wiliest iniquity (Ps. 5). Thou hast 
loved justice and hated iniquity (Ps. 44). All Holy Writ 
is full of the abhorrence that God has for sin, and so He 
cannot be cause or author of it. But apart from this, all 
other things, and all penal evils and afflictions, come of 
the will and ordinance of God. This foundation also is 
quite sure. There is no such thing as 'fortune' in the world: 
that was a fiction and error of the heathen. The goods 
that the world calls 'goods of fortune.' are not given by 
fortune, — there is no such thing,— but by God alone. So 
says the Holy Spirit by the Wise Man : Good things and 
evil things, life and death, poverty and riches, God gives 
them all (Ecclus. xi. 14). 

And though these things come by means of secondary 
causes, still it is certain that nothing is done in this great 
commonwealth of the world but by the will and ordinance 
of that sovereign Emperor who governs: it. Nothing comes 
by chance in respect of God : all is registered and sorted 
out by His hand. He counts all the bones of your body 
and all the hairs of your head : not One of them shall fall 
but by His ordinance and will. Why do I speak of men? 


not a sparrow falls into the net, says Christ our Redeemer, 
but' by the dispensation and will of God. Are not two 
sparrows sold for a penny? and not one of them shall 
fall to the ground without the providence of your Father 
(Matt. x. 29). There is not a leaf that stirs on a tree 
but by His will. So the Wise Man says of lots : Lots are 
thrown into the urn, but God it is that directs them 
(Prov. xvi. 33). Although the lots are. drawn from the 
caddy or urn, think not that they come out by chance ■:. 
they come out only by the ordinance of Divine Providence, 
which disposes and wills it so. The lot fell upon Matthias 
(Acts i. 26) : it was not by chance that the lot fell on 
Matthias, but by a particular arrangement and providence 
of God, who was pleased to choose him for His Apostle by 
that way. 

Good philosophers attained to this truth even by the 
sole light of nature, and said that although in respect of 
natural causes many things happen by chance, yet in 
respect of the First Cause they are not by chance, but 
intended quite on purpose. They give this example : a 
master sends a servant in some direction on business, and 
sends another servant by a different way to the same 
place on other business, without the knowledge of either 
of them, but meaning them to meet there. The meeting 
of the servants is by chance in respect of themselves, but 
in respect of their master, who intended it, it is not by 
chance, but thought out and intended of set purpose. So 
here, though in respect of men some things fall out by 
chance, because they neither intended nor thought of 
them, yet in respect of God it is not by chance, but by 
His knowledge and will, He having so ordained it for 
secret and hidden ends known to Himself. 

What we have to draw from these two fundamental 
principles is the conclusion and thesis which we proposed, 
—.that since all that befalls us comes from the hand of 
God, and all our perfection lies m conforming ourselves to 
His will, we should take all things as coming from His 
hand, and conform ourselves therein to His most holy and 
divine will. You must not take anything as coming by 
chance, or by the industry and contrivance of men: for 
that is what generally gives so much pain and annoyance : 


you must not think that this or that came upon you because 
So and So managed it, and if it had not been for this or 
that thing, things would have gone otherwise. You must 
make no account of that, but take all things as coming 
from the hand of God,' by whatsoever way or whatsoever 
roundabout process they- come,, since it is He who sends 
them by those means. One of those famous Fathers of 
the Desert used to. say that a man could not find true 
repose or, satisfaction in this life, unless he reckoned that 
there is only God and himself in the world. And St. 
Dorotheus says that those ancient Fathers made a great 
point of taking all things as coming from the hand of 
God, however small they were, and in whatever manner 
they came about, and thereby kept themselves in great 
peace - and < quiet, and lived a heavenly life. 

Further explanation of the second fundamental 
. principle 

It is a truth so settled in Holy Writ that all afflictions 
and penal evils come from the hand of God, that it would 
not be Necessary for us to take time in proving it, were it 
not for the obscurity which the devil with his cunning 
tries to throw over it. From the other also certain truth 
which we stated, which is that God is hot cause or author 
of sin, the devil draws a false and lying conclusion, making 
some people believe that though the evils that come to 
us by means of natural causes- and irrational creatures; 
as sickness, hunger and barrenness, come- from the hand 
of God, because there there is no sin, nor can be in such 
creatures, since they are not capable of it ; yet the evil 
and affliction which Comes about by the fault of a man who 
wounds me, robs me, dishonours me, does hot come from 
the hand of God, nor is guided by the ordinance of His 
providence, but by the malice and damnable will of another 
man. This is a very great error. St. Dorotheus says 
very well, rebuking this error in those who do not take 
these things as coming from the hand of God, " There 


are those who, when another person says a word against 
them, or does them any other ill turn, forget God, and 
turn all their rage against their neighbour, imitating 
dogs who bite the stone, and neither look at nor take 
account of the hand that threw it." 

To banish this erroneous action, and secure a firm 
foundation in Catholic truth, Theologians observe that 
two elements there are combined in any sin that man com- 
mits ; the one is the movement and exterior act, the other 
the disorder of the will wandering away from what God 
commands. God is author of the former, man of the 
latter. Let us take the case of a man quarrelling with 
another and killing him. To kill him, he must needs put 
his hand to his sword, draw it and brandish his arm, and 
deal the blow, and do other natural movements, which 
may be considered by themselves apart from the disorder 
of the will of the man who does them to kill another. Of 
all these movements, considered by themselves, God is 
cause, and He produces them, as He produces likewise 
the effects of the action of irrational creatures. For as 
these creatures cannot stir nor act without God, so neither 
can man : he cannot stir his arm nor put his hand to his 
sword : and besides that, these natural acts are not evil 
of themselves ; for if a man practises them in necessary 
self-defence, or in a just war, or as a minister of justice, 
and so kills another, he would not sin. But of the fault, 
which is the defect and disorder of the will, whereby the 
wicked man does the injury, of that deviation from reason 
and perversion of the same, God is not cause, although 
He permits it where He might hinder it, but hinder it He 
does not, in fulfilment of just judgments of His own. They 
illustrate this by a comparison. A man has a wound on 
his foot, and goes limping: the cause of his foot going at all 
is the virtue and motive power of his soul ; but of his limp- 
ing, the cause is the wound, and not the virtue or power of 
the soul. So of the sinful action that man does, the cause of 
the action is God, but the cause of the fault and sin that 
there is in the act is the free will of man. Thus though 
God is not nor can be cause or author of sin, yet we must 
hold for certain that all penal evils come from the hand 
of God and by dispensation of His providence, by what- 


ever way and in whatever manner they come, whether 
they come by means of natural causes and irrational crea- 
tures, or by means of rational creatures. God guided 
the hand of him that hurt you, and the tongue of him 
who gave you the opprobrious name. Shall there be 
evil in the city that the Lord hath not done?, says the 
prophet Amos (iii. 6). Holy Writ is full of this truth, 
attributing to God the evil that one man does to another, 
and saying that it is God who did it. 

In the Second Book of Kings, in the account of the 
chastisement wherewith God chastised David by means of 
his son Absalom, for the. sin of adultery and murder that 
he had committed, God says that it was Himself that was 
to do it. So I will raise up over against thee evil from 
thine own house (2 Kings xii. 11). Hence it is also that 
the impious kings, who in their pride and cruelty inflicted 
most atrocious chastisements on the people of God, are 
called by Scripture instruments of the divine justice. Ah 
for Assur, the rod of my indignation (Isai. x. 5). And of 
Cyrus, King of the Persians, by whom the Lord intended 
to chastise the Chaldeans, He says : whose right hand 
I have grasped (Isai. xlv. 1). On which St. Augustine 
has this excellent remark: " God deals with us as an 
earthly father is wont to do : when the father is angry with 
his son, he takes a stick which he finds hard by, and 
chastises his son with it : then the stick he casts into the 
fire, and keeps for the son the inheritance. In this way 
God is wont also to take wicked men for an instrument 
and scourge to chastise the good." We read in Ecclesias- 
tical History how at the destruction of Jerusalem Titus, 
general of the Romans, going round the city, saw the 
ditches full of corpses and dead bodies, and all 
the neighbourhood infected by the stench : whereupon he 
raised his eyes to heaven, and with a loud voice called 
God to witness that it was none of his doing that so great 
slaughter had taken place. And when that barbarian 
Alaric was going to sack and destroy Rome, a venerable 
monk met him, and begged him not to be the cause of 
so many evil deeds as were likely to be committed on that 
expedition. And he replied : "I am not going to 
Rome of my own accord, but some spirit assails 




me every day and torments me, saying : Go to Rome and 
destroy the city." Thus all things come from the hand 
of God and by His ordinance and will. So the royal pro- 
phet David, when Semei reviled him and flung stones and 
dirt at him, said to those who would have had him take 
vengeance on the fellow : The Lord hath commanded him 
to curse David; and who shall dare to say, Why hast thou 
commanded it? (2 Kings xvi. 10). He means to say, the 
Lord hath taken him for the instrument of my affliction 
and punishment. 

But what great thing is it to recognise men as instru- 
ments of the Divine justice and providence, since the 
same is true even of the devils themselves, obstinate and 
hardened as they are in their malice, and anxious for our 
perdition? St. Gregory observes this marvellously in that 
saying of Scripture : An evil spirit of the Lord tormented 
Saul (1 Kings xvi. 14). The same spirit is called ' spirit 
of the Lord ' and ' evil spirit,' — ' evil,' by desire of his 
evil will ; and ' of the Lord,' to give Us to understand that 
he was sent by God to give that torment to Saul, and God 
worked by him. And this the text itself there declares, 
saying : An evil spirit, sent by the Lord, tormented him 
(Spiritus nequam a Domino) (1 Kings xvi. 14). And for 
the same reason, saiys the Saint, the devils, who afflict 
and persecute the just, are called in Scripture God's 
marauders: simul venerunt latrones ejus et fecerunt viam 
per me (Job xix. 12) : marauders (latrones), for the evil 
will that they have to do us harm; and withal God's, to 
give us to understand that the power they have to do 
us harm they have of God. So St. Augustine makes 
this excellent reflection : " Job did not say : The 
Lord hath given, and the devil has taken away : 
but he referred all to God : The Lord hath given, 
and the Lord hath taken away (Job i. 21) : for he knew 
well that the devil could do no evil but what God per- 
mitted him to do." And the Saint goes on to say : " Let 
no one say, ' the devil has done me this ill turn ' ; but 
attribute your affliction and scourge to God, since the devil 
could do nothing against you, nor touch even a hair of 
your head, unless God gave him permission thereto." 
Thus the devils could not enter into the swine of the Gera- 


senes, without first asking permission of Christ our Re- 
deemer (Matt. viii. 31). How could they touch you, how 
could they tempt you, without God's leave? He who 
could not touch the swine, how shall he touch the children? 


Of the great benefits and advantages contained in this 
conformity to the will of God 

The blessed St. Basil says that the height of sanctity 
and perfection in Christian life consists in attributing the 
causes of all things, great and small, to God, and con- 
forming ourselves therein to His most holy will. But that 
we may better understand the perfection and importance 
of this, and so be more given to it and more careful to 
secure it, we will proceed to set forth in particular the 
benefits and great advantages contained in this conformity 
to the will of God. 

In the first place, this is that true and perfect resigna- 
tion which the Saints and all the masters of spiritual life 
so greatly extol, and say that it is the root and principle 
of all our peace and quiet, since in this way a man sub- 
mits and places himself in the hands of God, like a little 
clay in the hands of a workman, that He may work in him 
His entire will, not seeking any longer to be his own, or 
to live for himself, nor to eat, nor sleep, nor labour for 
himself, but all for God and for the sake of God. Now 
this is what this conformity effects, since by it a man 
entrusts himself entirely to the will of God, so as not to 
desire to seek anything else than that the Divine will may 
be entirely accomplished in him alike in all that the man 
himself does, and in all that may happen to him, alike in 
prosperity and consolation and in adversity and affliction. 
This is so pleasing to God that for it King David was 
called by God a man according to His own heart. I have 
found David, a man according to my own heart, who will 
accomplish all my wishes (1 Kings xiii. 14). He kept his 
heart in as much abandonment and subjection to the heart 
of the Lord, and as prompt and ready for anything that 



God might please to imprint thereon in the way of afflic- 
tion or relief, as a piece of soft wax to receive any figure 
or form that men chose to give it. Therefore he said again 
and again, My heart is ready, God, my heart is ready 
(Pss. 56, 107). 

Secondly, he who shall have attained this entire and 
perfect conformity to the will of God, will have gained an 
entire and perfect mortification and mastery of all his 
passions and evil inclinations. We well know how neces- 
sary this mortification is, and how highly it is praised and 
commended by Saints and Holy Scripture. Now this 
mortification is a means necessarily to be presupposed to 
come to attain to this conformity to the will of God. That 
is the end, and mortification the means to arrive at that 
end : now the ultimate end must always be higher and 
more perfect than the means. How necessary a means 
mortification is to come to attain to this entire and per- 
fect conformity to the will of God, is easy to see. For 
what hinders this union and conformity is our own self- 
will and disorderly appetite. Thus the more a man denies 
and mortifies his will and appetite, the more easily will he 
unite and conform himself to the will of God. To unite 
and adjust a rough piece of wood to another well-wrought 
and polished, it is necessary first to tool it and remove 
the roughness, otherwise the one will never fit into the 
other. Now this is what mortification does : it removes 
our roughness, planing and tooling us, that so we may 
be able to be united and adjusted to God, conforming 
ourselves in all to His Divine will. Thus the more morti- 
fied a man is, the better will he succeed in uniting and 
adjusting himself to the will of God ; and when he shall 
be perfectly mortified, then will he arrive at this perfect 
union and conformity. 

Hence follows another thing, that may be our number 
three. This entire resignation and conformity to the will 
of God is the greatest and most acceptable and agreeable 
sacrifice that a man can offer of himself to God. In other 
sacrifices he offers his goods, but in this he offers himself. 
In other sacrifices and mortifications he mortifies himself 
in part, — as in temperance or modesty, in silence or in 
patience, he offers a part of himself to God; but this is 

CH. Ill 



a holocaust in which a man offers himself entirely and 
wholly to God to do with him all that He will, and as He 
wills, and when He wills, without exception of anything 
or reservation of anything for himself. Thus as man is 
worth more than the property of man, and the whole is 
worth more than the part, so this sacrifice is worth more 
than all other sacrifices and mortifications. And God 
sets such store by it that it is this that He requires and 
asks of us. Son, give me thy heart (Prov. xxiii. 26). Thus 
as the royal hawk feeds only oh hearts, so does God feed 
on that which is most precious and valuable, which is the 
heart. If you give Him not this, with nothing else can 
you content or satisfy Him. And this is not asking much 
of us : for if to us, who are a little heap of dust and ashes, 
all that God has created is not enough to satisfy or con- 
tent us, and our tiny little heart will never be satisfied 
with anything less than God, how can you think to content 
and satisfy God by giving Him not your whole heart, but 
part of it, and reserving the rest for yourself ? You are 
much mistaken, since our heart does not admit of being 
divided or parted in this manner. A little and narrow bed 
is the heart, says the prophet Isaiah (xxviii. 20) : there 
is no room in it for more than God. Therefore the Spouse 
calls it a little bed (Cant. iii. 1), because she kept her heart 
narrowed in such a way as to leave no room for any other 
than her Beloved. And whoever shall seek to dilate and 
widen his heart to make room in it for another, will cast 
God out of it, and of this His Divine Majesty complains 
by Isaiah (lvii. 8) : Thau hast committed adultery, receiv- 
ing in the bed of thy heart another than thy Beloved, and 
to cover the adulterer thou hast uncovered and cast out 
God. Had we a thousand hearts, we should offer them 
all to God, and all should seem to us little compared to 
what we owe to so great a Lord. 

Fourthly, as we said at the beginning, whoever shall 
reach this conformity, will reach perfect charity and love 
of God ; and the more he shall grow in it, the more will 
he grow in love of God, and consequently in perfection, 
which consists in this charity and love. This conclusion, 
apart from what we said before, is well gathered from what 
we have said just now, since the love of God consists not 



in words, but in deeds. " The proof of love is the display 
of work done," says St. Gregory. And the more difficult 
the works are, and the more, they cost us, the more mani- 
fest is the love that prompts them. So St. John, to show 
the love that God bore the. world, says : God hath so loved 
the world as to give his only-begotten Son to suffer and 
die for us (John iii. 16). And to manifest the love that 
He bore His Father, Christ our Redeemer says : That the 
world may know that I love the Father, arise, let us go 
hence (John xiv. 31); and the errand on which He went 
was to suffer death on the cross. So He gave testimony 
i to the world that He loved His Father, in accomplishing 

a commandment so rigorous. Thus it is in works that 
love is shown; and the greater and more laborious the 
works are, the greater is the display of love. This entire 
conformity to the will of God, as we have said, is the 
greatest sacrifice that we can offer of ourselves to God, 
because it presupposes a perfect mortification and resig- 
nation, whereby one offers oneself to God, and places 
oneself entirely in His hands, that He may do therewith 
what He pleases. And so there is nothing in which a 
man better shows the love that he bears to God than in 
this, since he gives and offers Him all that he has, and all 
that he possibly could have and desire ; and if he could 
have more and could give more, he would give it all. 


That this perfect conformity to the will of God is 
happiness and bliss on earth 

He who shall attain to this entire conformity to the will 
of God, taking all that happens as coming from His hand, 
and conforming himself therein to His most holy and 
divine will, will have gained happiness and bliss here on 
earth, will enjoy very great peace and tranquillity, and will 
ever have perpetual joy and gladness in his soul. This 
is the happiness and bliss of the Blessed enjoyed here by 
the great servants of God : The kingdom of God is not 
eating and drinking, nor giving oneself over to amuse- 




ments and pleasures of the senses, but righteousness and 
peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom. xiv. 17). This is the 
kingdom of God on earth, and the paradise of delights 
which we are able to enjoy here. And rightly is it called 
bliss, because it makes us in some sort like to the Blessed : 
for as there in heaven there are no changes nor fluctua- 
tions, but the Blessed ever remain in one frame of mind, re- 
joicing in God, so here on earth those who have attained 
to such entire and perfect conformity that all their satis- 
faction is the satisfaction and will of God, are not dis- 
turbed or troubled by the changes of this life, or by the 
various ways in which things turn out. Their will and 
heart is so united and conformed to the divine will that 
seeing that all comes from His hand, and that the will and 
good pleasure of God is accomplished therein, afflictions 
are changed into joys, and discomforts into mirth, 
since they seek and will rather the will of their Beloved 
than their own. Thus there is nothing that can disturb 
such people : if anything could disturb them and give them 
pain, it would be afflictions, adversities, and Contumelies ; 
but in such things they find a special delight and conso- 
lation, since they come from the hand of God, and such 
is His will. Thus there is nothing left that can possibly 
disturb or banish the. peace and restfulness of their soul. 

This is the cause of that unbroken peace and cheerful- 
ness in which we read that those Saints of old always 
lived, — a St. Antony, a St. Dominic, a St. Francis, 
and others like them. The same, we read of our 
blessed Father Ignatius, and we see it ordinarily in the 
great servants of God. Do you think those Saints had 
not their troubles? Had they no temptations or infirmi- 
ties such as we have? Did they not pass through various 
and diversified changes of fortune? Certainly they did, 
and through much more trying circumstances than we 
encounter ; since it is the greatest Saints that God usually 
exercises and tries with such things. How then did they 
keep ever in the same frame of mind, with the same coun- 
tenance and deportment, with an interior and exterior 
serenity and cheerfulness as if it were always Easter with 
them? The cause thereof was what we are saying, that 
they had come to attain to an entire conformity to the 


will of God, and placed all their joy in the accomplish- 
ment thereof : thus everything turned out to their satis- 
faction. To them that love God all things work together 
unto good (Rom. viii. 28). The just shall not be saddened by 
anything that happens to him (Prov. xii. 21). Labour, 
temptation, mortification, all was converted for them 
into joy, because they understood that such was the will of 
God, in which all their satisfaction lay. They had gained 
already such happiness and bliss as can be tasted in 
this life, and so they walked as if in glory. St. Catherine 
of Siena says very well on this point that the just are like 
Christ our Redeemer, who never lost the blessedness of 
His soul for all His many griefs and pains. So the 
just never lose that blessedness which consists in con- 
formity to the will of God, for all their many afflictions. 
There ever lasts and remains in them that joy and satis- 
faction, which consists in the will and good pleasure of 
God being accomplished in them. 

This is a peace so exalted and so extraordinary that 
St. Paul says of it : The peace of God, which surpasseth 
all understanding, keep your hearts and intelligences in 
Christ Jesus (Phil. iv. 7). He says that this peace sur- 
passes all understanding, because it is so high and super- 
natural a gift that human understanding cannot of itself 
comprehend how it is possible for a heart of flesh to be 
quiet, peaceful, and full of consolation in the midst of the 
whirlwinds and storms of temptation and affliction there 
are in this life. This appears in the marvel of the bush 
that Moses saw, which burnt and was not consumed 
(Exod. iii. 2) ; and in the miracle of the three youths in the 
Babylonian furnace, who in 'the midst of the fire re- 
mained whole and entire praising God (Daniel iii. 24). 
This it is that holy Job said, speaking to God : Lord, 
thou tormentest me marvellously (Job x. 16), giving us 
to understand on the one hand the great affliction and 
pain that he was suffering, and on the other hand the 
great content and satisfaction that he had in suffering, 
since such was the will and good pleasure of God. 

Cassian relates that an old man of Alexandria, being 
surrounded by a great multitude of unbelievers uttering 
curses against him, stood in the. midst of them like a lamb, 

ch. iv v OLYMPUS 425 

suffering in silence with great peacefulness of heart. They 
mocked him, gave him buffets and blows, and did him 
other grievous injuries. Among other things, they said 
to him with scorn: " What miracles has Jesus Christ 
wrought?" He answered : " The miracles that He has 
wrought are that, suffering the injuries that you are doing 
me, even if they were greater, still I feel no indignation 
nor anger against you, nor any trouble of passion. " This 
is a great marvel, and a very high and extraordinary 

Of that mountain of Macedonia called Olympus the 
ancients say, and St. Augustine refers to it in many 
places, that it is so high that there is no experience up 
there of winds or rains or clouds. Even birds cannot 
settle there, since it is so high as to rise above the 
first region of the air arid reach to the second; thus 
the air there is so pure and refined that clouds cannot 
form and float in it, as they require a more dense atmos- 
phere. And for the same reason birds cannot hold On 
their way there, nor can men live there either, the air 
being too subtle and refined for respiration. Informa- 
tion of this was given by certain climbers who went up 
there year after year to offer certain sacrifices. They 
carried with them moist sponges to put to their nostrils, 
and so condense the air as to make it breathable. These 
people wrote up there in the dust certain alphabetic char- 
acters, which they found next year as clean-cut arid entire 
as they had left them, which could not be if there were 
winds and rains. Now this is the state of perfection to 
which they have mounted up and attained, who have this 
entire conformity to the will of God. They have mounted 
and risen so high, they have gained by this time such a 
perfect peace, that there are no clouds nor winds nor rairis 
to reach them there, nor birds of prey to attack and rob 
them of the peace and joy of their heart. 

St. Augustine on those words : Blessed are the peace- 
makers, for they shall be called the children of God (Matt, 
v. 9), says that Christ our Redeemer calls peacemakers 
blessed and children of God, because there is nothing in 
them that contradicts or resists the will of God, but in 
all things they are conformable like good sons, who in 


everything seek to be like their father, having no other 
will this way or that but what their father has this way 
or that. 

This is one of the most spiritual and essential points 
of spiritual life. He that shall arrive at the pitch of taking 
all things that befall him, great and small, as com- 
ing from the hand of God, and so conforming 
himself to the divine will therein as that all his satisfac- 
tion is the satisfaction of God and the fulfilment of His 
most holy will, — such a one has found a paradise on earth. 
His abode is in peace and his dwelling on Mount Sion 
(Ps. 75). Such a one, says St. Bernard, may in all 
security and confidence sing the. canticle of the Wise Man : 
In all things I have sought rest, and shall dwell in the 
inheritance of the Lord (Ecclus. xxiv. 11) ; because I have 
found the true repose and full and complete joy that no 
one can take away : that your joy be full, and your joy no 
man shall take away from you (John xvi. 22, 24). Oh if 
we could succeed in placing all our satisfaction in the ful- 
filment of the will of God, so that our will should be ever 
His will, and our satisfaction His satisfaction ! Oh that 
I were minded, O Lord, never to will or will not except 
as Thou wiliest and wiliest not, and that that were my 
consolation in all things ! It is good for me to cleave 
unto God, and put my hope in the Lord God (Ps. 72). Oh 
what a good thing it would be for my soul to be thus 
united to God ! Oh how well off should we be, if we 
were always so united with Him as in all that we did and 
suffered to regard nothing but the accomplishment of the 
will of God, and that was all our satisfaction and delight ! 
This is what that holy man [Thomas a Kempis] said : 
" He to whom all things are one, and all lead to one, and 
all things are seen in one, can be steady in heart and rest 
peacefully on God." 


That in God alone satisfaction is to be found, and he 
who shall set up his rest in anything else shall never 
find true satisfaction 

They who place their satisfaction in God and His divine 
will, enjoy unbroken satisfaction and content, for, being 
built into that firm pillar, the will of God, they share in the 
immutability of the divine will, and so are always firm 
and immovable and of one mind : but those who are at- 
tached to the things of the world, and have set their heart 
and satisfaction in them, cannot have true and lasting 
content, because they go as things go, and depend on 
things, and are subject to the changes of things. The 
glorious St. Augustine declares this very well on that 
saying of the prophet : He hath conceived sorrow and 
borne iniquity (Ps. 7). " Hold for certain," he says, 
" that you will always be liable to pain and disappoint- 
ment, so long as you do not set up your rest in that which 
none can take away from you without your will." Non 
enim potest labor finiri nisi hoc quisque diligat quod in- 
vito non possit auferri. 

We read of our Father Francis Borgia that when he 
came to Granada with the body of the Empress, and the 
time came to deliver over his charge, on opening the 
leaden coffin in which she lay, and uncovering her face, it 
was found to be so changed, so hideous and disfigured, as 
to strike the beholders with horror. This made such an im- 
pression on him, and God touched his heart with such a 
sense of disillusionment of the things of the world, that he 
made a firm purpose, saying : " I resolve, my God, never 
more to serve a master who can die. ' ' Let us then take 
this resolution, which is a. very good one: ' I purpose, 
Lord, never more to set my heart on anything that can be 
taken from me by death, on anything that can come to an 
end, on anything that another can take from me without 
my will, ' since in no other way can we find true content- 



For, says St. Augustine, if you set your heart on that 
which they can take away from you without your will, 
it is clear that when they do take it away, you must feel 
it. This is natural : a well-loved possession is not given 
up without grief ; and the greater the love, the greater will 
be the grief. And in confirmation of this he says in another 
place : " he who shall wish to find satisfaction in himself 
shall be sad." If you set up your rest in such and such 
an office, or in such an occupation, or in being in such a 
place, or anything like that, such a satisfaction can easily 
be taken from you by the Superior, and so you will never 
live in contentment. If you set up your rest in exterior 
things, or in the fulfilment of your own will, those things 
easily change ; and when they do not change, you your- 
self change : for what pleases you and satisfies you to-day, 
to-morrow displeases and dissatisfies you. If you do not 
believe it, see it in that people of Israel, who, having the 
manna, grew weary and asked for other food ; and seeing 
themselves free, at once turned their desire upon their old 
state of subjection, and sighed after Egypt and the garlic 
and onions they ate there, and longed many times to 
return there. You will never find satisfaction if you set 
up your rest in those things. But he who shall place all 
his satisfaction in God and in the fulfilment of His holy 
will, shall always live content, for God is everlasting, 
never changes, always remains such as He once for all is. 
" Would you attain to perpetual and everlasting joy and 
contentment," says the Saint : " set up your rest in God 
who is everlasting." 

Holy Writ marks this difference between the fool and 
the wise and holy man. The fool changeth like the moon: 
the holy man remaineth in his wisdom unchanged like the 
sun (Ecclus xxvii. 12). The fool changes as the moon, 
to-day waxing and to-morrow waning ; to-day you will see 
him cheerful and to-morrow sad ; now in one mood, now in 
another; because he has placed his love and satisfaction 
in the changeable and perishable things of the world ; 
and so he dances to the tune of such things, and changes 
with their vicissitudes ; like the sea, he goes with the moon, 
he is moon-struck. But the just and holy man endures 
like the sun, he keeps ever the same demeanour and is 

CH. V 


ever of the same mind, there is no waxing and waning in 
him, he is always cheerful and content, because his con- 
tentment is in God and in the fulfilment of His most holy 
will, which none can alter* 

Of that holy abbot called Deicola it is told that he always 
had a smile on his face. And when some one asked him 
why, he said: " Be what may be, and come what may 
come, no one can take God away from me." Christum a 

me tollere nemo potest. This man had found true con- 
tentment, because he had set up his rest in what could not 
fail, and none